US presidential candidate Obama arrives in Afghanistan
The Democratic candidate for president of
the United States, Barack Obama, arrived in Afghanistan Saturday on week-long
tour also expected to take him to Israel and Jordan and possibly Iraq before flying on to European capitals Berlin, London and Paris.
Obama, who wants to make Afghanistan a focus of US foreign policy in terms of the "war on terror," was expected to meet US military commanders and high-ranking Afghan officials.
His trip - details of which were kept strictly under wraps until his reported arrival at Bagram US airbase north of Kabul - is seen as an attempt to improve in the eyes of US voters Obama's perceived lack of foreign affairs knowledge.
CNN reported that Obama had already begun the trip on Thursday with a brief stopover in Kuwait as part of a US Congress delegation, during which he had met US troops.
Al-Jazeera broadcaster said Obama, once in Afghanistan, had been flown on from Bagram to visit troops in eastern Afghanistan - an area which recently saw nine US soldiers killed in a Taliban attack, one of the heaviest losses US forces have suffered in Afghanistan.
Obama was also expected to meet President Hamid Karzai on Sunday as part of a schedule which for security reasons was being kept a closely-guarded secret.
Meanwhile, the chief police of Kandahar told Deutsche Presse- Agenture (dpa) Saturday that a roadside blast in southern Afghanistan killed four policemen and wounded another.
Khan Mohammad - a police official in Kandahar province - said the blast struck a patrol in Maiwand district of restive Kandahar province on Saturday.
In another development, two French aid workers were kidnapped at gunpoint on Friday in central Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
The two were abducted when a group of armed men entered into their organization's guesthouse in Neli, capital of Daikundi Province, late Friday, said Mohammad Nadir, the provincial police chief.
"The armed men tied up the guards and dragged the aid workers into their vehicles," he said.
The two French nationals were employed at the Action Contre la Faim (ACF) (Action Against Hunger) organization providing aid relief to Afghan communities at risk of acute malnutrition, the organization said in its website.
As a result of the kidnapping, ACF has suspended its current relief operations in Afghanistan, which it said benefited more than 130,000 people in 2007.
The organization added that its primary concern at this point was securing the release of the two kidnapped staff members, and ensuring the ongoing safety of the rest of its team, dpa reported.