Daily brief: abducted journalist freed in commando raid
Media alert: AfPak Channel editor Peter Bergen will be reporting "Live from the Battle Zone" from Helmand province in southern Afghanistan tonight at 10:00pm EST on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, simulcast on CNN International. Rescue rangers In a pre-dawn raid, military commandos freed an abducted New York Times reporter who was captured by Taliban militants ...
Media alert: AfPak Channel editor Peter Bergen will be reporting "Live from the Battle Zone" from Helmand province in southern Afghanistan tonight at 10:00pm EST on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, simulcast on CNN International.
Media alert: AfPak Channel editor Peter Bergen will be reporting "Live from the Battle Zone" from Helmand province in southern Afghanistan tonight at 10:00pm EST on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, simulcast on CNN International.
In a pre-dawn raid, military commandos freed an abducted New York Times reporter who was captured by Taliban militants on Saturday while investigating last week’s NATO airstrike in Kunduz province in the north of Afghanistan (New York Times and CNN). A British soldier and a local Afghan journalist were killed in the firefight (BBC). At least 70 foreigners are known to have been kidnapped in Afghanistan since 2001, 15 of whom have been killed (Telegraph).
Taliban extremists laid a trap for U.S. Marines yesterday in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, about six miles from the Pakistani border, killing all four soldiers in the deadliest single incident yet for U.S. military trainers (McClatchy DC). Under top NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s new edicts designed to protect the population of Afghanistan, the number of coalition airstrikes this summer compared with last summer has fallen by almost half (USA Today).
As violence in Afghanistan remains high, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Al Jazeera yesterday in his first interview with the network that both Afghanistan and Pakistan can count on the United States for the "long term" (Al Jazeera and Washington Post). Gates also said that he is "quite comfortable" with Pakistan’s nuclear security arrangements, which has concerned analysts as the Taliban advanced close to the capital this spring.
The UN-backed watchdog commission whose job it is to investigate complaints in Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 presidential election declared yesterday that it has "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" at several polling stations, as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry gave incumbent President Hamid Karzai a sharp message: "Don’t declare victory" (New York Times and Wall Street Journal). The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) ordered a partial recount of the vote (Los Angeles Times).
In spite of the ECC’s findings of fraud, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission yesterday released results from over 90 percent of polling stations — including thousands of suspected fraudulent ballots — that gave Karzai more than 50 percent of the votes he needed to avoid a runoff against his primary competition Abdullah Abdullah, setting the stage for even more confusion surrounding the election (IEC, Times of London and Independent). It could take "months" to sort out the thousands of claims of voter fraud and intimidation (AP).
A storm of violence
A U.S. drone reportedly struck Pakistan’s restive tribal region of North Waziristan for the second time in 24 hours, killing at least ten alleged militants according to Pakistani officials (AFP and Geo TV). North Waziristan is a stronghold of Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, and the attack targeted a suspected Taliban residential compound (BBC, Dawn, and Al Jazeera). The United States has already carried out more drone strikes in Pakistan this year than in all of 2008.
Across Pakistan, the military continued to clash with the Taliban and other extremists: Pakistani troops killed at least 24 suspected insurgents in the ongoing conflicts at the strategically important Khyber Pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Pakistani military airstrikes targeted militants in Orakzai agency and gunmen in southwest Pakistan set eight NATO fuel trucks on fire on the outskirts of Quetta (Daily Times, AFP, Financial Times, BBC, and AFP).
Pakistan’s main opposition leader and twice former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is facing a murder inquiry as Pakistan’s Supreme Court is set to hear petitions for his prosecution in reportedly "ordering the murder of an ex-army officer after an alleged political kickbacks deal turned sour" in 1993 (BBC). Sharif vehemently denies the accusations, and also rejects claims by a former Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence official that he met with al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden five times (Times of India).
Inching out of the closet
In the socially conservative country of Pakistan, being gay is no easy task (ABC News). Though homosexuality is heavily stigmatized, especially in the more rural areas of Pakistan, some gay "members of the elite" can be found in big cities like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi, and some people have been willing to discuss their sexuality openly.
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