Monday, September 15, 2008

For sale: Luxury Villa complete w/ death threat.

In a Muslim country. Where else?

Residents flee exclusive Kandahar estate developed by President Hamid Karzai's brother due to Taliban threats.

The neat rows of new homes in the gated community sit behind freshly painted three-metre-high cement walls and rows of manicured shrubs. Pavements lined with imported eucalyptus trees border smoothly paved streets that fill at twilight with cyclists and walkers. Further back, another cluster of houses is being built, including an eight-bedroom villa with a pool, wraparound deck and balcony supported by doric columns.

Residents at the Aino Mina housing development also have access to a mosque, two private schools, football fields, playgrounds and private armed guards on duty 24 hours a day. A hospital, supermarket, pizza parlor and golf course are also planned.

But, despite luxuries rivaling those found in exclusive suburban communities in the United States, many owners are trying to sell or rent out their homes. Others have temporarily abandoned properties. The reason is as simple as the long-standing estate agent's maxim: location, location, location. (ed. note: Not true - the reason is as simple as ISLAM)

This upmarket residential neighborhood is situated on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Kandahar - one of the most volatile and lawless provinces of Afghanistan. Others call the area the heartbeat of the Taliban, the place where the group formed in the early 1990s and where it is, by all accounts, re-establishing itself today.

A war against modernization...

According to Mahmoud Karzai, the driving force behind the project and younger brother of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, what is taking place is a clash between people who want a better life and those fighting any attempt at progress.

Aino Mina began with 24 hectares (60 acres) and an initial investment of $50,000 by five businessmen, including three Afghan-Americans, in 2002 shortly after a US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban. A $3m loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government agency that encourages investment from the American private sector in developing foreign economies, boosted the project.

Today the project has grown to 800 hectares and $50m of investment. At least 300 homes have been sold. About half of those have been completed and a further 250 are under construction, according to the site manager, Mohammed Gul Pacha Khan.

Visits by your friendly, neighborhood Taliban are on the uptick...

Residents and workers in the development say the Taliban have targeted the area and maintain an unmistakable presence. During a sweltering July afternoon, a thickly bearded man in a shalwar kameez with a turban wrapped around his head rode a motorcycle along the nearly empty streets of Aino Mina with an AK-47 strapped across his back. The motorbike and the AK-47 both are long-favoured hallmarks of the Taliban.

Despite the rider, a handful of construction workers at the project hauled wheelbarrows full of dirt, lugged slabs of concrete and scaled bamboo ladders. Naik Mohammed, 28, pointed to a two-story townhouse and said Taliban militants had recently looted the elegant dwelling and demanded protection money from its occupants.

"They told the owners to pay $200,000 and they would allow them to live there peacefully and they won't kill them," Mohammed said. "The family left the next day."

Thugs and thieves working a protection racket all in the name of Allah.