Up to 14 people were killed yesterday in a suicide bombing of a police bus carrying cadets and civilians in Jalalabad, the capital of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province (CNN, BBC, Reuters, LAT, AFP, Pajhwok, AP). Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed credit for the attack, one of several to have occurred recently in the city. Militants have also reportedly killed 35 construction workers and their guards in an isolated part of the eastern Afghan province of Paktia (AP, BBC).
Afghans in the northern city of Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, protested for a second day after Wednesday’s night raid that killed four people, after up to 2,000 protesters clashed with German and Afghan forces yesterday, throwing gasoline bombs and grenades at the small NATO outpost in the city (BBC, AP, Pajhwok, NYT, WSJ, BBC, CNN). Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday condemned the raid, disputing NATO assertions that the four killed were insurgents, and repeated his past demands that night raids be curbed and conducted only by Afghan forces (LAT). The Taliban offered their own condemnation this morning (AP).
In today’s must-read, Rajiv Chandrasekaran notes that the death of Osama bin Laden and increased efforts to target Taliban commanders have dramatically increased interest in Afghan government-led reintegration programs, but that political infighting and a lack of resources for houses, protection, and training are inhibiting and could reverse the progress that has been made (Post). And Afghan and international forces have reportedly killed up to 60 insurgents after a three-day operation in the northwestern province of Faryab (Reuters).
Race to the top?
Analysts continue to react to reports that Egyptian militant Saif al-Adel had been appointed the "interim" head of al Qaeda, while Al Jazeera said that the group of leaders that chose Adel had also picked new commanders for Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the specific Afghanistan-Pakistan border region (Guardian, Reuters). The report comes even as some militants have expressed doubt about the move, with one senior Taliban militant telling CBS News’ Sami Yousafzai, "Saif [al-Adel] is a key figure, but he has not taken an active position yet…[Al Qaeda] definitely needs more time to come out from the trauma of Osama bin Laden’s death" (CBS).
Al Qaeda yesterday posted bin Laden’s final recorded message on jihadist forums, in which the slain terror leader expressed his support for the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and encouraged followers to spread the struggle against "tyrants" across the Muslim world (NYT, CBS, Reuters, Guardian, ABC, AJE, CNN, BBC, Telegraph). According to ABC News, U.S. forces are in an "international hunt" for al-Qaeda operatives whose names appeared in the voluminous files collected at bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound after he was killed by Navy SEALs May 2 (ABC).
And Saudi Arabia has reportedly refused to accept bin Laden’s three widows and nine children, currently in Pakistani custody (ET). Pakistani officials have indicated that Monday’s attack on a Saudi diplomat in Karachi was linked to the Saudis’ "indifferent attitude towards [bin Laden’s] family who have been subjected to interrogation by the United States," in the words of one investigator.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a press conference yesterday with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen said that there was "no evidence at all" that Pakistan’s senior leadership knew about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, though he added that he believed "somebody" — possibly a retired or midlevel officer — was aware of bin Laden’s presence (NYT, BBC, LAT, WSJ, AFP). They also urged Congress not to cut funding to Pakistan, with Gates saying that Pakistan had already been "humiliated" by the raid, and Mullen adding that the assault had caused "soul-searching" within the Pakistani military (AP). Reuters and the AFP detail the ongoing debate in Pakistan and the U.S. about the costs and benefits of U.S. aid to the country (Reuters, AFP).
U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Marc Grossman arrived in Islamabad yesterday with deputy head of the CIA Michael Morell to help repair the relationship with Pakistan, as a new Pew poll reveals that support for the United States has dropped in the Muslim world in the past year (AP, ET, Daily Times, Pew). The deputy commander of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Wali ur-Rehman, said yesterday in an interview with the AP that the Taliban would fight with "new zeal" against "NATO, Jews, and Christians" in the wake of bin Laden’s death, as the U.S. continues to put pressure on Pakistan to deal with militant groups operating within the country’s borders (AP, Reuters). And the United Arab Emirates today denied a claim made by Pakistani Air Force officials in a closed briefing to Pakistan’s parliament last week that the Gulf country has been in control of Baluchistan’s Shamsi air base, a suspected launching point for armed U.S. drone strikes, since the 1990s (AP).
Dawn reported today that Abu Suhaid al-Makki, the al Qaeda operative arrested recently by Pakistani authorities, is believed to have lived in Pakistan for the last 10 years (Dawn). Witnesses report that five Chechens killed by Pakistani Frontier Corps personnel near the city of Quetta on Tuesday were unarmed and may have been trying to surrender when they were fired on, despite FC and police assertions that they were armed either with grenades or suicide vests (Dawn, ET). The militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi yesterday claimed responsibility for gunning down seven Shiite Muslims on the outskirts of Quetta, including a young girl (Daily Times). And Pakistani police said yesterday that the Khyber agency-based group Lashkar-i-Islam led Tuesday’s massive raid on a police post near Peshawar, which led to the death of two police officers and at least 15 militants (NYT).
The AP last week looked at two friends and former teammates on West Point’s lacrosse team who are trying to balance their careers in the U.S. Army with their aspirations to play professional lacrosse (WSJ). One soldier, Lt. Adam Fullerton, will miss an upcoming season with the Denver Outlaws due to his impending deployment to Afghanistan.