The German news organization Der Spiegel has published three photographs of U.S. Army soldiers posing with the bloodied and partially naked corpse of an Afghan civilian who was killed moments before in "an incident the Army has classified as a murder," images the Army had sought to keep under wraps during the murder investigation (Post, AP, CP, AJE, Guardian). NATO officials have compared the photographs to those of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and the Army has released an apology, though officials in Afghanistan are reportedly bracing for anti-American protests in the country. Der Spiegel, which reports that it uncovered some 4,000 images and videos taken by the "kill squad," has made the article available only to subscribers (Post, AJE).
A strong earthquake with magnitude 5.6 has reportedly struck some 42 miles southeast of Faizabad, the capital of the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan (AP). There have been no reports of damage or casualties. Six Afghan and Pakistani construction workers and their driver were kidnapped by gumen on motorbikes in the northern province of Sar-i-Pul late last week (AP). Afghan military officials say security forces are on high alert across the country ahead of celebrations for the Afghan new year, which began today (Tolo, Pajhwok). In a speech tomorrow night after the Nawroz holiday, Afghan president Hamid Karzai is expected to announce that Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, will be among the first several areas to be transferred to Afghan security control, though residents fear corruption and weak Afghan forces could derail the transition (Tel).
The fallout continues over last week’s suspected U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan, which some Pakistani officials claim killed up to 45 civilians and tribal elders in a jirga and the U.S. maintains targeted a militant compound: Pakistan has pulled out of a trilateral meeting with the U.S. and Afghanistan, scheduled for March 26 in Brussels, and the U.S. Embassy declined to comment "because it was not aware any meeting had been proposed" (AP, ET, Dawn, LAT); and militants killed four men who allegedly provided the U.S. with information that contributed to last week’s strike (CNN, AP, Dawn). Additionally, a Wazir tribal elder said the tribe would wage jihad on the U.S. and its allies (Dawn, ET); a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, in whose area the drone strike occurred, said he would pull out of a peace deal with the Pakistani government if the strikes were not stopped (Dawn); and although the Pakistani Air Force reportedly went on high alert patrolling Pakistani airspace over the tribal areas, residents of Miram Shah, North Waziristan’s capital, said they heard drones — known locally as Bungara — flying overhead on Saturday (Dawn, Dawn).
Sources tell Pakistan’s Express Tribune that 18 members of the families of the men killed by CIA contractor Raymond Davis have been flown to the U.A.E., and four American green cards and two residences have been prepared in the U.S., though a lawyer for the families said he believed they were still in Pakistan (ET, Dawn). TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud reportedly chaired a meeting of the militant group and condemned Davis’s release, promising to target those involved "with the help of our colleagues in Punjab," according to a spokesman (The News). And Greg Miller reports that the CIA has launched an internal review of "how it trains and deploys security officers overseas" (Post).
As many as 52 miners were trapped underground after explosions caused a coal mine in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan to collapse over the weekend, two weeks after the Pakistani government reportedly warned the mining company to halt operations because of a dangerous accumulation of methane gas (DT, ET, AP, AFP, AJE, BBC, AP, Geo). Four men were rescued earlier by colleagues, but Pakistani officials announced this morning that there were no additional survivors.
At least 15 people were killed in targeted shootings in Karachi yesterday, as "tit for tat violence" continues to grip the southern port city (ET, Geo, Dawn, DT). Clashes between militants and security forces in Kurram continue (Dawn). And on Saturday, a Pakistani court gave prosecutors an additional week to serve former Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf with an arrest warrant stemming from charges related to the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (AFP).
Let’s get ready to rumble
Afghanistan’s Olympic committee is hoping to send six Afghan women to participate in boxing, judo, and taekwondo at the 2012 Olympics in London, and the contestants are toning up in a gym in Kabul’s main stadium (AFP). Shafika, a 17 year old boxer, asserted, "We want the Afghan flag to come up at all the medal ceremonies for women boxing."