Daily brief: at least 22 killed in twin Karachi blasts
Karachi under fire Asuicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a bus full of Shia Muslimsnear a furniture market en route to a religious procession in thesouthern Pakistani port city of Karachi earlier this morning, killingat least 12 and wounding 55, after weeks of deadly political violenceand ethnic tension in the commercial capital (BBC, AJE, ...
Karachi under fire
Karachi under fire
Asuicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a bus full of Shia Muslimsnear a furniture market en route to a religious procession in thesouthern Pakistani port city of Karachi earlier this morning, killingat least 12 and wounding 55, after weeks of deadly political violenceand ethnic tension in the commercial capital (BBC, AJE, AP, AFP, Dawn, Bloomberg, Geo).Another bomb blast occurred an hour later at the Jinnah Hospital inKarachi, where many of the injured from the first attack had beentaken, killing at least ten (Geo, AP, Dawn).There have been no claims of responsibility yet, but tensions betweenthe city’s Sunni majority and Shias have been high since a blasttargeting a Shia procession inDecember killed more than 40 ( AP).
Anew video has emerged purportedly from the Mamozai region of thenorthwestern Pakistani tribal region Orakzai, showing a Talibancommander whipping two men and a teenage boy for alleged offensesincluding not growing a proper beard and speaking out against theTaliban (AP).The militant carrying out the beating was reportedly identified by atribal elder as Mullah Toofan, whose name has been floated by somesources as a replacement for the possibly slain Pakistani Taliban chiefHakimullah Mehsud (UPI).
MatthewRosenberg accurately sums up the speculation still flying about thefate of Hakimullah, who is rumored to have been killed by a suspectedU.S. drone strike in Waziristan in mid-January: "First, HakimullahMehsud was probably dead, officials said. Then he waslikely alive. Now, he is either dead or alive. It depends on whom youask" (WSJ).U.S. officials are increasingly persuaded that the militant chief hasgone the way of his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in adrone strike last August, but the Pakistani Taliban continues to claimhe is in hiding, possibly to throw the drones off his trail (AFP, CNN, AP).
TheTaliban bombing that killed three U.S. soldiers in northwest Pakistanearlier this week is now believed to have been a suicide attack, not aremote controlled bombing as was originally reported, suggesting theattacker may have had inside information about the location of thetargeted convoy (AP, BBC).Pakistani authorities, already facing backlash about the presence ofU.S. military in the very anti-American country, have arrested at least35 in connection with the attack (Reuters, Daily Times).
Andthousands of Pakistanis in at least four cities including Karachi andIslamabad protested yesterday against the guilty verdict for AafiaSiddiqui, the U.S.-educated Pakistani neuroscientist convicted oftrying to shoot U.S. soldiers while in custody in Afghanistan in 2008 (AP, Daily Times).The Afghan Taliban reportedly threatened to execute a U.S. soldiercurrently being held hostage somewhere in Afghanistan if Siddiqui isnot released (The News).
Today’smust read from Richard Oppel and Souad Mekhennet describes the fluid,easily-crossed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, not limited tothe tribal regions (NYT).Locals say "there is no searching" at border checkpoints, even thoughU.S. commanders want to increase the flow of supplies through theChaman border crossing between Baluchistan and Kandahar up to 30percent as part of the Obama administration’s 30,000-soldier increasein Afghanistan.
Asuicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a crowd watching a dog fight onthe outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the restive southernAfghan province of Helmand, killing at least three people including achild and wounding dozens (AP, Pajhwok, BBC, AFP). And a suicide blast in front of the Nadeem Hotel last night in Kandahar City killed six and wounded 20 yesterday evening (AP, BBC, Pajhwok).
TopU.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal saidyesterday that while he is "not prepared to say that we have turned acorner," the allied effort has made "significant progress" and "I donot say now that [the situation] is deteriorating," as he did lastsummer (Reuters, AP, WSJ, Wash Post, NYT).Gen. McChrystal cautioned that though he doesn’t yet have hard numbersor statistics, his assertion is based on increasingly positive feedbackfrom tribal leaders in southern Afghanistan.
And NATO chiefAnders Fogh Rasmussen told a two-day NATO defense ministers meeting inIstanbul about the war in Afghanistan that he too sees a "new momentum"going forward in 2010, as the alliance is under pressure to come upwith more European trainers for Afghan security forces (AP, AFP, NYT). France is planning to send 80 more trainers (AP).
ThePentagon released a much-awaited report earlier today on how Talibaninsurgents managed to overrun Combat Outpost Keating, in Kamdesh in theeastern Afghan province Nuristan, last October, killing eight U.S.soldiers and burning down most of the barracks (AP, NYT).The military report blamed "shortcomings in command oversight" andrecommended "administrative actions" against some members of the chainof command. Greg Jaffe looks at the broader picture of battlefielddiscipline, writing that as many as five battlefield commanders havereceived official letters of reprimand in the last month or beeninvestigated by a general who recommended some sort of disciplinaryaction (Wash Post).
TheAfghan Taliban have reportedly posted a statement on their websitevowing to "collude" with no one, seeming to rule out any possible peacenegotiations with the Afghan government or the west, after last month’sLondon conference on Afghanistan focused on reconciliation efforts (Reuters).Some Afghan women are worried that Afghan President Hamid Karzai maycompromise on women’s rights in order to make deals with the Taliban (AFP).And the U.S.’s approach to making connections with small groups ofTaliban in Afghanistan at a tribal level is fraught with risks (McClatchy).
Sixthousand poll workers out of 165,000 contract staff for last August’sflawed presidential contest in Afghanistan have been barred fromstaffing future polls because of not working "in a proper way" duringlast summer’s elections (CP, Reuters). Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections were postponed from May until September of this year.
Pakistan finished fourth in the South Asian Games’ golf contest, as Bangladesh seized the gold medal (Dawn). India and Sri Lanka finished second and third, respectively.
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