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Afghan Citizens Increase Weapons Cache Turn-in 100 Percent

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2005 – The number of weapons and munitions caches turned in to coalition forces increased nearly 100 percent between February 2004 and February 2005, U.S. military officials in Afghanistan reported today.

"These statistics show the voice of the people rejecting the rule of violence for the choice of freedom," said Army Maj. Steve Wollman, spokesman for Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, during a press conference. In February 2004, of the 65 caches recovered, Afghan citizens turned in or reported 25. A year later, of 73 caches recovered, citizens turned in or reported 49. Coalition forces discovered the rest.

"Caches are increasing in size and the amount of useful munitions," Wollman said. "We continue to be encouraged by these discoveries."

He also noted that coalition forces and the Afghanistan government are helping people affected by the Asian country's harsh winter weather.

"The Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development has initiated the coordinated delivery of food, blankets and medicine to remote villages," Wollman said. "Coalition forces continue to help with the delivery of food and supplies.

"On March 3, soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, coordinated an airdrop of nine pallets of food in the villages of Tangay, Kalay and Baylough in Zabol province," Wollman said. "Soldiers from the 25th's 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, delivered food and blankets to the village of Omna in Paktika province."

With possible spring floods looming, the coalition, Afghan government, United Nations, International Security Assistance Force and international relief organizations have established working groups to respond to any disaster, he noted.

Wollman said representatives from these organizations have been meeting for several weeks to assess high-risk areas, determine the best use of assets available and develop public awareness. "Provincial working groups, led by the governor of each province, will increase relief assistance at the local level," he said. "The coalition supports these Afghan government initiatives and will help the Afghan people to develop their own emergency preparedness plans and response teams."

Officials also reported today that coalition forces came under enemy fire in eastern Afghanistan on March 2. Three enemy attackers died in the gunfire exchange that followed, as well as two civilians. Two coalition members and three civilians were wounded.

Wollman announced "the public face" of "coalition efforts to defeat terrorism" - a command Web site that debuted March 1.

"We have a responsibility to let the people of Afghanistan and the rest of the world know what we're doing here, and our Web site is one of the ways we do that," Wollman said, adding that the command invites comments and suggestions to make the site more useful.

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