Daily brief: bloody coordinated attacks on security targets shake Pakistan
A bloody day Suspected Taliban militants have unleashed a new wave of attacks on security targets in Pakistan, as 25 gunmen stormed three law enforcement agencies this morning in Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, and a suicide bomber blew up part of a police station in the northwestern city of Kohat (Washington Post, AFP, New York ...
A bloody day
Suspected Taliban militants have unleashed a new wave of attacks on security targets in Pakistan, as 25 gunmen stormed three law enforcement agencies this morning in Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, and a suicide bomber blew up part of a police station in the northwestern city of Kohat (Washington Post, AFP, New York Times, Dawn, CNN, Telegraph, Guardian). At least 37 people, including militants, Pakistani policemen, and civilians, have been killed in the fifth set of major assaults in ten days, bringing the number of people killed in the attacks up to some 150 (BBC, Dawn, Geo TV, Wall Street Journal). A blast has also been heard in the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, Peshawar, and Pakistani police say a car bomb exploded near a school, killing at least five including children (Geo TV, AP, Dawn, ABC News, NDTV).
The attacks in Lahore, Peshawar, and Kohat come ahead of a planned Pakistan Army offensive in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, where airstrikes continue to pound the mountainous terrain as more soldiers and tanks move in (Reuters, Dawn, Daily Times). About 200,000 people have fled the area since August (AP). And a suspected U.S. drone reportedly struck an alleged militant compound in Dandey Darpa Khel, a town in the North Waziristan tribal agency where the Haqqani militant network is said to be active, killing at least four people (BBC, Geo TV, AFP). There have been nearly 80 drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas since the beginning of 2008.
The Kerry-Lugar bill to give Pakistan $1.5 billion a year in aid annually for the next five years awaits U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature into law, but the language has not been changed to assuage Pakistani military concerns that some of the conditions impinge on the country’s sovereignty (AP). An explanatory statement clarifying the intent of the bill will reportedly be entered into the record, though such statements do not have the force of law (McClatchy).
A meeting of minds
Obama’s war council of advisers met for the fifth time yesterday morning to discuss the war in Afghanistan, and the meeting reportedly focused on efforts to strengthen the civilian mission in the country (CNN, AFP, AP, Reuters, Washington Post). The White House denied a report from the BBC that the Obama administration had already told the British government that it would soon announce a substantial increase in troops in Afghanistan (BBC, Politico, Telegraph). Some 50 Taliban militants were killed yesterday in Afghanistan in two separate coalition operations in Ghazni and Uruzgan (AP).
Tom Coghlan and Nico Hines report that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denied knowledge of a series of secret payments by Italian troops in an area east of Kabul designed to pay off Taliban militants to remain inactive (Times of London). The French troops replacing the Italian contingent in Sarobi were reportedly not told about the “tens of thousands of dollars” of bribes that had allegedly kept the area comparatively peaceful, though both the French and Italian militaries deny the allegations (Times of London, AFP, AP).
Oh no you don’t
The drama surrounding Afghanistan’s never-ending, corruption-ridden presidential election continues, as incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai rejected the resignation of one of the two Afghan members of the U.N.-backed body over his claims that the Western members of the Electoral Complaints Commission were making unilateral decisions (Pajhwok, AP). A decision about Afghanistan’s election is expected in the coming days.
And analysts say that second place candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s reaction to a potential Karzai victory could determine whether “Afghanistan erupts in clashes between Abdullah’s Tajik supporters and Karzai’s Pashtun followers or whether it calmly transitions to a coalition government” — though a fractured one (Washington Post). A second round of elections would pose a host of logistical and security problems in Afghanistan as its bitter winter approaches (AP).
Dexter Filkins turns his keen reporting eye to profiling top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal in this weekend’s must-read in the New York Times Magazine (New York Times).
A big deal
Najibullah Zazi, the Denver resident arrested on terrorism charges related to a plot to bomb targets in New York City around September 11, reportedly had contact with al Qaeda’s chief in Afghanistan, an Egyptian called Mustafa Abu al-Yazid who is thought to be one of the founders of the terrorist group (AP, New York Daily News). Though the contact was purportedly via an intermediary, it indicates al Qaeda’s intense interest in the operation and distinguishes the case from other wannabe terrorists who acted on their own.
It was only a kiss
One of Pakistan’s top universities is planning to issue a code of conduct to ban public displays of affection after a female student’s peck on the cheek of her boyfriend generated controversy on campus (Christian Science Monitor). Lahore-based blogger Asif Akhtar commented, “In a country where there’s an ongoing debate about the role of religion and the state, that debate is going to spill over into all aspects of public life and college campuses.”
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Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
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