Humanitarian Aid – UNITED SIKHS Blog https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog Recognize The Human Race As One Tue, 28 Nov 2017 14:31:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 UNITED SIKHS Launches Food Bank on East Coast, USA https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/10/united-sikhs-launches-food-bank-on-east-coast-usa/ Thu, 29 Oct 2015 16:23:40 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2243

UNITED SIKHS is humbled to announce the initiation of the UNITED SIKHS food bank in New York City, which covers all five boroughs – Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan, as well as the counties of Nassau and Suffolk in Long Island. To donate food cans for the bank, write to foodbank@unitedsikhs.org or to sign up as a volunteer, click here.

One of the pillars of the Sikh faith is the concept of Vhand Chakna, or sharing one’s possessions and blessings with others. Walking on the path of service as laid out in Sikhism, we are devoted to battling extreme hunger all over the world:

In Malaysia, UNITED SIKHS launched the Malaysia Foodbank Organization, raising funds with Good Will Walks in 2014 and 2015. Since its inception, the Malaysia Foodbank organization has provided over 150 tonnes of food to those who need it most, including the Orang Asli community, from which seven children went missing in August.

UNITED SIKHS extended its hunger relief efforts in 2010 by launching “Feed the Hungry” to feed the hungry in Canada:

UNITED SIKHS distributing food to the needy in Toronto, Canada in 2014. Click here to view more pictures.

The Guru Nanak Food Bank inaugurated in 2011 in Kenya continues to serve food to the needy.

Her Excellency, Mrs. Pauline Kalonzo signing the pledge for the Sri Guru Nanak Food Bank, a project of UNITED SIKHS.

 

Historically, Guru Angad Dev Ji’s wife, Mata Khiviji, planned and organized langar when people gathered for spiritual darbar during the times of Guru Nanak and continued the tradition through Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Mata Khivi and community members worked as a team to provide fresh, hot, and healthy food for everyone who gathered. This is how the tradition of langar began.

Langar has always been provided to whoever is in need of a meal, regardless of race, religion, caste, or gender. The Sikh faith teaches us to treat all human beings as equal when carrying out acts of selfless service, or seva. It is a blessing to be able to extend this concept internationally, and provide food to thousands of individuals who would otherwise go hungry. It is thanks to your support that we are able to carry out our mission of providing aid and assistance to the needy. Donate today to help support these programs.

Also needed are volunteers in three areas:

  • Logistics: Volunteers are needed for tracking where food goes, when food is needed in an area, how much is needed, where food donations can come from, etc.
  • Physical Distribution: Volunteers are needed to pick up and transfer food.
  • Operations: Volunteers in this group will execute the delivery remotely and report the status back to the project manager.

If you are interested in volunteering for this initiative, please contact foodbank@unitedsikhs.org, and fill out the join form.

We are excited to take this step in our effort to reduce hunger around the world with the addition of a food bank in New York, where 1.7 million individuals live in poverty. The foodbank will be located at the following address:

UNITED SIKHS Food bank
55 Broadway, Suite – D
Hicksville, NY 11801

Keep up to date on this issue and other UNTIED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter

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Sikh Community of Seattle Offers Helping Hand to Washington Wildfire Victims https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2015/10/sikh-community-of-seattle-offers-helping-hand-to-washington-wildfire-victims/ Sun, 18 Oct 2015 21:29:32 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=2237 Seattle, Washington-UNITED SIKHS and the Sikh community of Washington have organized a relief effort in support of victims of the hundreds of wildfires that have devastated the state since July.

Community members gather at the check presentation ceremony in Washington State. Photo courtesy of The Chronicle.

Over the last few weeks, UNITED SIKHS’ United States Northwest region coordinator Balwant Singh worked with the Seattle Sikh sangat, or Sikh congregation, to raise a total of $20,000. Members of the six-family Omak Sikh community raised an additional $6,000. In total, a check of $26,000 was donated to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, which manages multiple fire relief funds that aim to assist wildfire victims as effectively as possible by assessing specific needs and channeling donations directly to affected individuals. $15,000 of the donation was designated to the families of the three firefighters who have lost their lives since the fires began, with each family receiving $5,000. The rest of the money will be utilized directly for fire victims.

UNITED SIKHS is grateful for your continued support, which allows us to provide assistance victims and their families.

 

“God gave us the same color blood.”

During the check presentation ceremony, which took place at Okanogan Behavioral Healthcare, Harminder Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Kuldip Singh, Balwant Singh, and other members of the local Sikh community were present. Mayors Jon Culp and Cindy Gagne of Okanagan and Omak, respectively, attended the ceremony as well. Not only was this event an opportunity to provide seva, or selfless service, to those in need, but also a chance for the local Sikh population to build common ground with their fellow community members, comprised of Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, and to present themselves as the supportive, concerned, and active citizens that they are. Balwant Singh addressed the community members in attendance, stating,”We are the Sikh people-different look, different faces. But the almighty God gave us the same color blood. God sent us here to help each other.”

This year, wildfires have burned over 8 million acres of land in the United States. Wildfires have been burning in Washington State since July, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate as numerous homes have been destroyed. Victims, firefighters, and evacuees are still in need of immediate assistance.

UNITED SIKHS is now collecting canned food and clothing for those affected by the wildfires. To donate, please contact

sikhaid-usa@unitedsikhs.org

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UNITED SIKHS Partners with NC Health Department to Educate about Swine Flu Pandemic at Health Fair https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2012/03/nited-sikhs-partners-with-nc-health-department-to-educate-about-swine-flu-pandemic-at-health-fair/ https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2012/03/nited-sikhs-partners-with-nc-health-department-to-educate-about-swine-flu-pandemic-at-health-fair/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 15:56:29 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1240 http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-17-11-2009-00.html

UNITED SIKHS Partners with NC Health Department to Educate about Swine Flu Pandemic at Health Fair

52nd Sikh Aid health fair offers free flu shots, free lab tests and health screenings for all ages at local Gurdwara in North Carolina

Charlotte, NC, USA – With concerns that the ‘Swine’ flu pandemic continues to spread worldwide this Fall, UNITED SIKHS Carolina Sikh Aid Team, in collaboration with Gurdwara Sahib of Charlotte, organized its second health fair this year and provided free flu shots, free lab tests (Cholesterol and Diabetes) and free health screenings for the public.

The fair, which was held on 1st November, 2009, at the local Gurdwara, is part of our ongoing effort to engage, educate and empower the community through health initiatives.

The free health screenings provided were for:

 

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Women Health
  • Lab tests – Cholesterol, Blood Sugar
  • Dental
  • Diet/Nutrition
  • Vision
  • Orthopedics
Community members registering for flu shots
Ms Susan Jones giving presentation to the Community

Health information on different topics was provided in English and Panjabi.

In some countries, up to 70% percent of the flu viruses being sampled are the  H1N1 (‘Swine’) flu virus. In an effort to educate the community about the virus,  UNITED SIKHS invited a representative from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Health Department, Susan Jones, to speak at the health fair. She gave valuable updates on the state of the H1N1 virus and its effects. She also spoke about various prevention methods and resources being provided by health department to contain the spread of virus.

Despite the inclement weather, approximately, 30 members took advantage of free flu shots and blood tests.

The fair was very successful in encouraging community members to utilize local health care resources. Balbir Kaur, who took advantage of flu shots, said, “The health fair is a wonderful way to serve uninsured community members.”

Pawanjit Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director,  and Susan Jones discussed ways to further educate the local community through different community outreach programs. Pawanjit commented, “Collaboration is critical, especially in the event of a disaster and other health emergencies. We will continue to foster the ongoing relationship with the local health department, and thank Susan for joining us.”

Community members registering for screenings

UNITED SIKHS would also like to extend special thanks to the Gurdwara Sahib of Charlotte for hosting the health fair, and for sponsoring the lab tests. Gurdwara Sahib President, Dr. Surenderpal Singh Mac continues to encourage community outreach.

UNITED SIKHS would also like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Jaspal Singh and Dr. Suneet Kaur for sponsoring free flu shots, and to all other doctors and volunteers for their cooperation in organizing this event.

You may read about a previous community service project by UNITED SIKHS athttp://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-14-07-2009-00.htm

Issued by:
Dr. Gurpreet Kaur
SIKH AID Coordinator
UNITED SIKHS NC/SC
Email: gurpreet.kaur1@unitedsikhs.org

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HEALTH FAIR HELD IN QUEENS, NEW YORK https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2012/03/health-fair-held-in-queens-new-york/ https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2012/03/health-fair-held-in-queens-new-york/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 15:36:41 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1227 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/Health_fair_Queens.htm

  July 09, 2004                                                                                                   25th Harh, 536 Nanakshahi

 PRESS RELEASE

 HEALTH FAIR HELD IN QUEENS, NEW YORK

 Queens, New York – UNITED SIKHS organized a Health Fair at Gurdwara Makan Shah Lobhana (113-10 101 Ave, Richmond Hill, New York 11419) on June 20, 2004, in which variety of health and safety information was made available to the attending public. In addition, the Health Fair invited speakers to give their views on Health and Nutrition, Early detection of Cancer, Women’s Health, Domestic Violence and Alcohol Abuse as well as how to manage medical emergencies. A Blood Donation Drive was also arranged as part of the Fair on the special request of Long Island Blood Center to meet the blood shortage in the tri-state area.

 

The Fair was made possible with the active participation of the Queens Hospital Center, St. Mary’s Hospital of Brooklyn, Health First, Special Commission of Domestic Violence and volunteer Sikh physicians. The physicians spoke on various medical issues and answered questions that the attending public had. The participating organizations set up their booths and provided information on free medical insurance, HIV counseling/education, blood screening, asthma education and screening, diabetes screening and a dental checkup. The response to the Health Fair was tremendous, and was attended by more than a thousand people. In anticipation of the event, people lined up for free medical check-ups even before the opening of the Health Fair. Visitors to the Health Fair were tested for their sugar level, and some were found to have a count of more than 200 mg/dL. (normal ranges are 70-110 mg/dL.) and were recommended to see a physician immediately. A granthi (Sikh clergyman) from India was sent to the emergency room, as his blood sugar count was 500.

The active participation of the physicians who volunteered and interacted with the public giving valuable advice and helpful information was truly an inspiration. Dr Amritpal Kaur’s lecture on Health and Nutrition not only identified the pitfalls in the typical Punjabi diet but also suggested substitute healthier foods. She had made a special effort to translate her charts in Punjabi and had an interactive session with the attending public. The second lecture was delivered by Dr. Kiranjeet Kaur, regarding the detection of breast cancer, A brochure entitled “Signs, Symptoms, Detection and Treatment”, showing how to do a breast self-examination for cancer, was given out and emphasis was laid on yearly physician checkup, including X-ray and Mammogram, particularly for women over the age of 40.

 

Dr. Grover talked about domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Noting that the majority of the domestic violence in communities goes unreported, with the majority of the victims being women, Dr. Grover conveyed that there are many organizations that are involved in assisting the victims of domestic violence. In the Punjab (where the vast majority of the attendees originate from), domestic violence is a prevalent problem and Punjabi immigrants who come to the U.S. do not necessarily shed this criminal behavior once here. The victim needs to know that there is help available for her to escape this cycle of domestic abuse, and Dr. Grover hoped that her presentation would be the beginning of relief for potential victims. Dr. Suber Singh gave a lecture on HIV prevention and education, as well as basic CPR training. He also gave his views on how to manage medical emergencies and how to make the most effective use of dialing 911. This was well received by the public.

 

The Blood drive was also a marvelous success, as the donations by the attendees was more than originally anticipated. The attendees also generously donated plasma for bone marrow transplantation. 

 

Because of the tremendous attendance, the Fair extended beyond its normal closing time, as there were still a number of people seeking medical services and advice.  UNITED SIKHS has a long tradition of caring for the underserved and this Fair was another jewel in its crown. This Health Fair was a step to complete the vision of a healthy world where the common and not so privileged get health services free of cost.  The large number of attendees and the Sikh community being at a high risk of heart related problems and diabetes only reinforced the apparent need for such events to be held in the future with more frequency.

 

 

UNITED SIKHS would like to the New York Office of Minority Health Region II for providing funds for the printing of brochures and posters.

 

 

 

 

 

Attendees being educated on medical issues facing the community.

 

 

 

 

Generous attendees donating blood and plasma to help save a life.

 

 

 

Scene outside of the Health Fair – children and adults welcome!

 

 

 

Education of the Public – a key to a healthy community.

 

 

 

For more information on the Right to Turban campaign, please link to:

http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/petitions/RightToTurban.htm

 

Our Mission

To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity. UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues – whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities. UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavor than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good. Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfill its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all. We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.

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Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar hosts Blood Drive; Community Members respond to crucial need https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2011/06/gurdwara-dashmesh-darbar-hosts-blood-drive-community-members-respond-to-crucial-need/ Tue, 07 Jun 2011 18:34:26 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1046 Marking the anniversary of the 1984 attacks on Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) in Amritsar, the sangat of Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar in Port Reading, NJ and UNITED SIKHS hosted the annual blood drive, where dozens of community members participated and generously donated. Central Jersey Blood Services partnered with us on this important endeavor.

According to the American Red Cross, in the United States alone, someone needs blood every two seconds, and over 38,000 donations are needed every day. Blood supplies are vital in case of accidents, sickle cell anemia and cancer among others, and cannot be manufactured. Only 38% people in the United States are eligible to donate, which makes contributions on a regular basis very important.

UNITED SIKHS has been consistently conducting blood drives in different communities to respond to this vital and crucial need of people all over the world. A big shout out to those who donated blood at the drive and those who perform this sewa on a regular basis.

For more information on Blood Drives or other UNITED SIKHS Community Service initiatives, visit us at www.unitedsikhs.org.

We cannot undertake such important projects without the support of generous community members like you. Please volunteer or donate today!

The blood donation van outside Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Blood donation in progress Sewadaar donating blood The team from Central Jersey Blood Services Inside the Blood Donation van

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Haiti Situation Unique, Stress Relief Participants https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2010/02/haiti-situation-unique-stress-relief-participants/ https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2010/02/haiti-situation-unique-stress-relief-participants/#comments Sun, 21 Feb 2010 05:57:18 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=766 February 19, 2010 3:19 p.m. EST

Topics: disaster and accident, relief and aid organization, United States

Tejinder Singh – AHN Correspondent

Washington, DC, United States (AHN) – The unique nature of the situation posed by the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti was highlighted by representatives from major relief organizations, the U.S. State Department and journalists with first-hand experience in post-earthquake Haiti in an hour-long presentation at the National Press Club on Thursday..

Nan Buzard of the American Red Cross emphasized the tremendous gap between the difficulty of the operation on the ground and the strong desire of the world for things to immediately improve in Haiti.

She spoke about the need to look beyond the statistics of the relief operation, commenting on the unprecedented nature of this situation. “We have all said this is off the charts,” she said. “This is much harder than the tsunami, which is remarkable.”

She also emphasized the importance of the Haitian people’s involvement in the recovery.

Other panelists included Gordon Duguid of the U.S. Department of State, Niurka Pineiro of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Jennifer Parmelee of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and Jaspreet Singh of the United Sikhs, a U.N. affiliated organization.

Duguid, on behalf of the Obama Administration, denied any knowledge of a request from the Haitian government for a “prison ship” to house convicts. “I am not sure if we have a facility like a floating prison ship,” he told the audience in reply to a question.

He noted that the goal of the U.S. government is to restore “self-sufficiency for Haiti in the aftermath of this disaster,” with as much help as possible from the mainland.

Pineiro welcomed the tireless efforts of other agencies including local organizations and U.N. personnel on the ground, saying the IOM is working out of makeshift offices as its offices were razed by the earthquake.

Parmelee, from the WFP, stressed the need to provide shelter and help at the usual habitat of the residents so they could continue generating a livelihood in familiar environs in future.

Singh, of United Sikhs, reiterated the needs of the Haitian people and efforts by organizations to meet that.

He noted two points being addressed by United Sikhs, saying, “we are the only NGO [non-governmental organization] providing hot food within days of the earthquake, with the only other hot food initially being provided by a camp set up by the government of the Dominican Republic.”

Singh said the other point is “the need for legal assistance-there are many cases of children orphaned from families who have relatives here in the United States who are citizens willing to adopt; cases where parents are killed and grandparents wish to adopt grandchildren.”

He added that the United Sikhs’ legal team is involved in assisting these families at a Haitian family support center in conjunction with the Red Cross.

Read more: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7017872107#ixzz0g9Btq3jC

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Thinking About Volunteering in Haiti? Get Your Vaccinations Now. https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2010/01/thinking-about-volunteering-in-haiti-get-your-vaccinations-now/ Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:13:15 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=681 Before volunteers leave for Haiti, you should already be up to date on
your regular vaccinations such as MMR, DPT, polio, etc., and at
minimum, get vaccinations for:
Tetanus
Hepatitis A
H1N1

All of these vaccinations are normally available from your State for
FREE, and all you have to do is walk into a clinic.

You also should have malaria prophylactics, and if at all possible
typhoid vaccination, which may or may not be available.

For New York, call the New York City Department of Health and Mental
Hygiene’s Immunization Hotline at (212) 676-2323. They’ll give you
your closest clinic. If you say you’re going to Haiti, they’ll say we
don’t do travel vaccinations. Just tell them clearly that you need
these above, and they should tell you where to go.

And also ReliefWeb’s guidance for relief workers:
http://reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/DKAN-7ZRPHT?OpenDocument

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Situation is tense in Haiti. Port-Au-Prince port is being built by the United States to allow aid https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2010/01/situation-is-tense-in-haiti-port-au-prince-port-is-being-built-us/ Mon, 18 Jan 2010 07:30:08 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=587 DIRECTLY FROM GROUND-ZERO

18th Jan 2010, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti: The port at Port-Au-Prince in Haiti is badly damaged. But the good thing is that the US has undertaken its reconstruction and may be ready by early next week for aid agencies to bring in supplies. The airport’s control tower was knocked out by the quake and U.S. military air controllers were operating from a radio post on the airfield grasss

UNITED SIKHS Director of disaster relief, Gurbachan Singh, whis currently in Haiti, distributed food, and toys for children in a makeshift hospital.  (Please see picture gallery at the end..)

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country and has for decades has devastating storms, floods and political unrest. The U.N.  peacekeepers have  40 of their men who have been here since 2004.The situaton here is very tense. There is limited security in the city, people are frustrated with the lack of food and water and totally lack any hot food supply. The crowds are getting unruly in some areas. UN is spread thin.

At the UNDAC (OCHA Emergency Response Team) briefing today, they said that the places that have been badly affected are Carrafour, Gressier, Leogane, Jazmel, Petit Grove where 60  to 90 percent of homes have been destroyed. UN itself is still organizing themselves because of their own crisis and therefore canot gaurantee any security. Situaton is fairly dynamic. They are working on a cluster distribution system that will provide some general security.  Security for individual points is very  unlikely. I have raised at the conference that after 5 days it is important for all agencies to start providing hot food and beverages. The meeting  members agreed and noted the inputs.

As for medical  supplies the feedback is that the hospitals are overwhelmed and patients are being placed on floors. The real need is for surgical equipment, other hospital equipment and supplies.  A detailed list will be publisd tomorrow as received from the local hospital and will be published on the blog.

The government officials said the total death toll was likely to be between 100,000 and 200,000.

Gurbachan Singh
Director, Disaster Relief
UNITED SIKHS
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Picture Gallery: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/haitiearthquake/gallery.php

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13th December:Advancing Care Together: Blood Drives: 2 Locations in New Jersey https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/12/13th-december-blood-drives-2-locations-in-new-jersey/ Mon, 07 Dec 2009 04:40:25 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=531 Upcoming Event: We need volunteers to donate blood and also to assist on this day in Port Reading New Jersey.

Every 2.5 seconds, someone needs blood…It could be a friend, a family member or maybe even you.

LIFE SHARED. LIFE SAVED. SO DONATE BLOOD

It takes all types of donors and the combined efforts of many every day to support our lifesaving mission. Whatever you have to share can help save lives

Donate Blood.  Blood Facts

  • Less than 5% of the population donates blood
  • Nearly 4 million Americans would die each year without live saving blood transfusions
  • An estimated 109,500 Americans will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma this year

Date: 13th Dec 2009
Time: 10:30am – 2:30pm
Location 1:  Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar, 885 Port Reading Avenue, Port Reading, NJ 07064-1035, P: 1-732-541-7475. 
Contacts At Location 1: Parminder Singh: 732-425-4096 | parminder.singh@unitedsikhs.org;  Godavar Singh: 908-482-3632;  Parmjit Kaur: 201-655-2849 |  parmjit.kaur@unitedsikhs.org

Location 2:  
Gurdwara Singh Sabha , 941 Port Reading, Port Reading, NJ 07604,  P: 1-732-541-4411

Contacts at Location 2: Pradeep Singh: 917-497-4443 | pardeep.singh@unitedsikhs.org, Paramjit Kaur: 201-655-2849 | parmjit.kaur@unitedsikhs.org  

To organize a blood drive in your region write to sikhaid@unitedsikhs.org

Pushmeet Kaur
UNITED SIKHS

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Blast kills 16 Pakistan cadets; NATO trucks bombed https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/09/blast-kills-16-pakistan-cadets-nato-trucks-bombed/ https://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/09/blast-kills-16-pakistan-cadets-nato-trucks-bombed/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2009 05:36:52 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=458

30th August, 2009: Islamabad, Pakistan: Amardeep Singh and Navjit Singh, reporting from Peshawar:  Aid work continues, we have just returned after distributing aid to 105 Christian families at Gojra, district Toba Tek Singh.  The below incident has raised high security alert.  More on the aid distribution to the Christian families, later…..

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090830/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

Blast kills 16 Pakistan cadets; NATO trucks bombed

ISLAMABAD – Bombings targeted a Pakistani police station and set a NATO fuel convoy ablaze Sunday, killing 16 cadets in the northwest’s Swat Valley and threatening the supply line to international forces in Afghanistan in a separate attack near the border.

The two blasts hours apart and hundreds of miles from each other came as Pakistani officials said the Taliban were ramping up strikes to avenge recent setbacks, including the loss of territory to the military and the death of their top leader in a CIA missile strike near the Afghan border.

Pakistan’s military has in recent months intensified its fight against the al-Qaida-linked extremists, who threaten stability in the nuclear-armed nation and are suspected of helping plot attacks against U.S. and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.

At least 16 cadets died Sunday after a suicide bomber sneaked into the courtyard where they were training in Swat’s main town of Mingora and detonated his explosives, local government official Atifur Rehman said. It was the deadliest attack since an army offensive ended Taliban rule there.

Investigators later sifted through the blackened wreckage in the courtyard littered with body parts, shredded uniforms and police berets.

Authorities were looking into reports the attacker may have donned a uniform and slipped into the station posing as one of the dozens of recruits, Deputy Inspector General Idrees Khan of the district police said.

“We are investigating whether the bomber climbed over the wall of the police station, or whether he was already present among the police cadets,” Khan said. He blamed the attack on a decision to relax a daily curfew in the area for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and police quickly blocked off roads and ordered residents back indoors.

The army’s offensive to take back the area was its largest in years after periodic peace deals with the militants. The Taliban’s takeover of parts of Swat, a former tourist enclave, about two years ago became a symbol of their expansion in the mostly Muslim country of 175 million.

Pakistan’s army says it is restoring order to the valley and surrounding areas, but Sunday’s attack indicated that while the Taliban may no longer be able to impose their harsh interpretation of Islam there, life is far from normal for the hundreds of thousands who are now returning after fleeing the army’s fierce three months of fighting to wrest back control.

Provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour blamed the Taliban for the suicide attack and said Pakistanis must be “mentally prepared” for more bombings until the Taliban are crushed.

The Pakistani Taliban have vowed revenge after the loss of Swat and the death of their top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a CIA missile strike Aug. 5 further west near the Afghan border. At least 40 U.S. drones have fired missiles into Pakistan’s lawless border areas, targeting militant leaders believed to threaten the war effort in Afghanistan.

The other blast Sunday ripped through a line of trucks ferrying fuel to NATO troops in Afghanistan, setting several oil tankers ablaze at a backed-up border crossing in southwestern Baluchistan province, police said.

The blast appeared to be the second terrorist attack in a week to target a border crossing.

Local police chief Hasan Sardar said flames and smoke were billowing into the sky Sunday night as authorities struggled to control the blaze near the Chaman border crossing in Baluchistan province in Pakistan’s southwest.

“It was a big explosion under one of the oil tankers that caused other vehicles to catch fire. The fire is spreading,” Sardar told The Associated Press by phone.

“We are at the moment trying our best to control the blaze. We are not sure whether there is any human loss,” he said. “It is just panic everywhere there.”

Police officer Gul Mohammad said from the scene that a bomb was suspected. He said security officials had earlier found and defused another explosive device lying near one of the NATO tankers.

“This was another bomb, which we could not find in our earlier search, that exploded,” Mohammad told the AP.

An eyewitness, Haji Mahmood, said he saw some men in a car and two on a motorcycle spraying the vehicles with a volley of bullets before the blast.

“The two men abandoned their motorcycle and escaped in the car,” Mahmood said.

Chaman is one of two main crossing points for supplies for American and NATO troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The foreign troops get about 75 percent of their supplies through Pakistan.

Some 1,000 trucks, many of them NATO tankers, were backed up on the road leading to the border because the Chaman crossing had been closed for two days in a dispute between customs officials over fruit inspections, police officer Abdul Rauf said. Afghan officials closed the border on Saturday in retaliation for lengthy inspections by Pakistani customs that were holding up Afghan trucks carrying grapes and pomegranates, he said.

Rauf said that he heard the explosion and saw at least three oil tankers, two container trucks and two dump trucks on fire.

Another suicide bombing Thursday killed at least 19 guards further north at the Torkham border crossing, the other main route into Afghanistan and gateway to the famed Khyber Pass.

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Associated Press Writer Matiullah Achakzai in Chaman contributed to this report.

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