Daily brief: Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber kills 13 in Lahore

Nabbed and killed — maybe After a slew of initial media reports suggested yesterday that "Azzam the American," Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a California-born convert to Islam who has appeared in a number of al-Qaeda videos as a spokesman for the group, was arrested recently in Karachi, Pakistani and American officials now reportedly believe the man ...

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Nabbed and killed -- maybe

After a slew of initial media reports suggested yesterday that "Azzam the American," Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a California-born convert to Islam who has appeared in a number of al-Qaeda videos as a spokesman for the group, was arrested recently in Karachi, Pakistani and American officials now reportedly believe the man captured may be another American involved in militancy in Pakistan (The News, Reuters, AP, Aaj, AJE, BBC; NYT, CBS, The News, Dawn, ABC, CNN, AFP, WSJ). Abu Yahya Mujahdeen al-Adam, who hails from Pennsylvania, is thought to be involved with al-Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan, and a Pakistani government official speculated that "the name and his origin" probably caused the confusion about Adam Gadahn. Gadahn also appeared in a video released yesterday before the reports about his alleged capture, praising the Ft. Hood shooter (Reuters, AP, Memri).

Nabbed and killed — maybe

After a slew of initial media reports suggested yesterday that "Azzam the American," Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a California-born convert to Islam who has appeared in a number of al-Qaeda videos as a spokesman for the group, was arrested recently in Karachi, Pakistani and American officials now reportedly believe the man captured may be another American involved in militancy in Pakistan (The News, Reuters, AP, Aaj, AJE, BBC; NYT, CBS, The News, Dawn, ABC, CNN, AFP, WSJ). Abu Yahya Mujahdeen al-Adam, who hails from Pennsylvania, is thought to be involved with al-Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan, and a Pakistani government official speculated that "the name and his origin" probably caused the confusion about Adam Gadahn. Gadahn also appeared in a video released yesterday before the reports about his alleged capture, praising the Ft. Hood shooter (Reuters, AP, Memri).

Pakistani officials reportedly claimed on Saturday that Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, a top Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander in Bajaur was killed in a Pakistani Army airstrike in the nearby tribal agency of Mohmand, along with an Afghan Taliban commander Qari Zia ur-Rehman and Fateh Muhammad, a Taliban commander in the Swat Valley (AP, Daily Times, Reuters, Dawn, BBC, Wash Post, FT, The News, CNN). However, a Reuters reporter apparently identified the voice of Maulvi Faqir, who phoned him later to say, "I’m fine. It’s just propaganda," and said he was in Bajaur, not Mohmand, on Saturday (Reuters).

The Pakistani Taliban, still reeling from the reported loss of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud to a suspected U.S. drone strike in mid-January, has not convened a meeting of its leaders in two months (Wash Post). No one has stepped up to take Hakimullah’s place as the public face of the movement.

Jets and guns in Waziristan, explosives in Lahore

And as Pakistani military jets fired on alleged militant hideouts in South Waziristan, killing eight, Pakistani Taliban commander in North Waziristan Maulvi Noor Muhammad was reportedly shot in Miram Shah on Friday by the relatives of a man he had recently tortured and killed (Dawn, AP, AFP, Daily Times). Pakistani intelligence officials say Maulvi Noor Muhammad led a group of 400 fighters in attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan. And two local Taliban were killed in Shakai, South Waziristan earlier this morning when they drove over a land mine (Geo).

A suicide car bomber armed with some 1,300 pounds of explosives rammed his vehicle into an anti-terrorist office of the Pakistani equivalent of the FBI in the eastern city of Lahore earlier today, killing at least 13 including 8 women and wounding more than 80 (AP, AFP, Geo, Dawn, CNN, BBC). The two-story building, where Pakistani police interrogate high-value suspects (though none was in the facility at the time, according to the city’s police chief), collapsed, and Pakistan’s interior minister was quick to blame the Pakistani Taliban, who just claimed responsibility (AFP).

And the Journal reports on the political pressure on Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to pick a new finance minister nearly two weeks after the resignation of Shaukat Tarin (WSJ).

Afghan militant infighting, Afghan government visits

Nearly 80 people, including 19 civilians, were killed in bloody clashes in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan between fighters of the Afghan Taliban and supporters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami, over the weekend, and some militants reportedly ‘defected’ to the Afghan government under pressure from the combat (AP, Times, The News, The News, McClatchy, WSJ). The cause of the dispute is unknown.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an unannounced trip to the southern Afghan town of Marjah, site of a recent coalition offensive, on Sunday, and spoke to a crowd of some 300 local men crammed in a mosque, who gave him an earful of complaints about the operations, government corruption, and local security (AP, Reuters, AFP, NYT, Pajhwok). Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal attended the meeting as a silent observer, later making supportive comments to reporters, and today saying that an upcoming offensive to secure the southern Afghan province of Kandahar is still some time away (AP, AP). U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is currently in Kabul on an unannounced visit, and cautioned of "hard fighting" ahead in Afghanistan (AFP, AP).

News reports this weekend claim the newly-appointed civilian leader of Marjah, Haji Zahir, served a four year jail term for attempted manslaughter while living in Germany, for allegedly stabbing his stepson after he was confronted by the 18-year-old for beating his wife (AP, NYT, Wash Post). Afghans reportedly are relatively unconcerned about Zahir’s criminal record, and a NATO spokesman quoted civilian chief in Afghanistan Mark Sedwill as saying, "This country is not going to be run by choir boys."

Elisabeth Bumiller profiles the first full-time "female engagement teams" of four- and five-member units of female Marines who will accompany men on patrols in southern Afghanistan in order to interact with Afghan women, who are culturally discouraged from speaking with men who are not relatives (NYT). And finally, India has renewed its vow to remain in Afghanistan after a recent attack on a guest house in Kabul that left several Indians dead (FT).

Birth control, Mullah-style

At least 37 Afghan mullahs have endorsed the use of contraceptives to increase time between pregnancies for Afghan women, focusing their messages on safety and fertility (AP). In a country with one of the world’s highest fertility rates and highest maternal death rates, use of the pill, condoms, and other forms of birth control rose to nearly 30 percent over eight months in three rural areas after health workers explained the benefits one-on-one.

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