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Afghans Accuse US of Chemical Dusting
CAIRO, February26 , 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – Afghan farmers are accusing the US forces of secretly busting their lands with chemicals, killing corps and animals and causing serious health problems for the population, a leading US newspaper reported Sunday, February26 .
Villagers in the remote mountain area of Kanai in Helmand Province and at least two other villages said that the American forces, controlling the skies of the war-ravaged country, were responsible for the nighttime aerial spraying, said The New York Times.
“They are the ones with the planes,” said Abdul Ahmad who lost, together with his brother Abdullah, 200 animals from symptoms that suggested poisoning.
Abdullah told the American daily that one night in early February he was watching over his animals when suddenly a plane flew overhead three time.
In the morning, the animals “went mad, their eyes went blue and they could not eat,” said his brother Abdul Ahmad.
“Water was coming from their mouths, they were trying to eat their droppings and they were shivering,” he added.
The February 3 incident also left villagers, particularly children, complaining of fevers, skin rashes and bloody diarrhea.
A week later, the crops - wheat, vegetables and poppies - were dying.
The villagers also lashed out at President Hamid Karzai who had pledged to help farmers who drop the cultivation of poppy, but he backed down on his promises.
“We gave our vote to Karzai so he would bring us help and now he is killing our animals,” Abdul Ahmad said angrily.
Similar sentiments were echoed by other farmers.
“Karzai lied to us,” charged Ahmadullah, accusing the president of failing his people.
“He said, 'We will give you assistance,' and he didn't. So we grew poppy to be able to feed our families. Then the president ordered it destroyed and so we destroyed it. And now he is destroying our wheat. What will be left of our lives?”
Last November, a UN report warned that Afghanistan is facing the threat of being a corrupt “narco-state” after the opium production rose by two thirds in2004 .
Both the American embassy in Kabul and the Afghan government, however, denied any involvement in any spraying.
“There is no credible evidence that aerial spraying has taken place in Helmand,” the Embassy said in a statement.
“No agency, personnel or contractors associated with the United States government have conducted or been involved in any such activity in Helmand or any other province of Afghanistan.”
Lt. Gen. Muhammad Daoud, Afghan deputy interior minister for counter-narcotics, said no evidence of aerial spraying was found in the area.
He attributed the death of the animals and crops to “a naturally occurring disease”.
Afghanistan's booming poppy crop has been an intensifying concern to both the US and Britain.
Last December, the Bush administration forwarded a budget request to Congress for 152 million US dollars for aerial spraying as part of a $ 776million aid package for counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan for2005 .
The request was later dropped over Karzai’s strong opposition.
World groups, led by CARE International, warned in an open letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 31 against widespread eradication of poppy in Afghanistan.
“Widespread eradication in 2005 could undermine the economy and devastate already poor families without giving rural development projects sufficient time to provide alternative sources of income.”