Daily brief: Afghan women killed in militant mortar fire

Drones, protests, and special operations The first alleged U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan in about two weeks has killed as many as 13 people in a village about 12 miles west of Miram Shah, the main town in the tribal agency of North Waziristan (AP, Geo, AFP, Geo). Pakistani security officials claimed between three ...

MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images
MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images
MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images

Drones, protests, and special operations

The first alleged U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan in about two weeks has killed as many as 13 people in a village about 12 miles west of Miram Shah, the main town in the tribal agency of North Waziristan (AP, Geo, AFP, Geo). Pakistani security officials claimed between three and five of the dead were militants, and that the target was the house of a local militant commander, Tariq Khan. In a rare incidence of recognizing civilian casualties, Pakistani authorities have doled out some $125,000 to families of 71 victims killed in Pakistani airstrikes in Khyber, near the Afghan border, over the weekend (AP, Reuters).

As the package of constitutional reforms is being debated in the upper house of Pakistan's parliament, protests against the proposed renaming of the North-West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa continue in Abbottabad, where residents are clamoring for a separate Hazara division for the Hindko speakers (AJE, Dawn, Daily Times, The News, Dawn, Express Tribune). If the bill passes the upper house, as is expected, it will go to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to be signed into law.

Drones, protests, and special operations

The first alleged U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan in about two weeks has killed as many as 13 people in a village about 12 miles west of Miram Shah, the main town in the tribal agency of North Waziristan (AP, Geo, AFP, Geo). Pakistani security officials claimed between three and five of the dead were militants, and that the target was the house of a local militant commander, Tariq Khan. In a rare incidence of recognizing civilian casualties, Pakistani authorities have doled out some $125,000 to families of 71 victims killed in Pakistani airstrikes in Khyber, near the Afghan border, over the weekend (AP, Reuters).

As the package of constitutional reforms is being debated in the upper house of Pakistan’s parliament, protests against the proposed renaming of the North-West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa continue in Abbottabad, where residents are clamoring for a separate Hazara division for the Hindko speakers (AJE, Dawn, Daily Times, The News, Dawn, Express Tribune). If the bill passes the upper house, as is expected, it will go to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to be signed into law.

Reuters reports that U.S. Special Operations Forces are playing a larger role than previously disclosed in training Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in counterinsurgency training (Reuters). And a study released yesterday by Harvard and the Nuclear Threat Initiative found that Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile faces "immense" threats and is the world’s least secure from theft or attack, charges that Pakistani officials promptly rebutted (AP, AFP, The News, Guardian).

Nabbed in Pakistan

A fourth suspect, a citizen of Pakistan, in Najibullah Zazi’s foiled plot to bomb New York City subways after allegedly receiving training at camps in northwest Pakistan in 2008, was reportedly arrested in Pakistan several weeks ago in connection with the case (AP, AFP, NYDN). The suspect, who has yet to be identified, could be extradited to and charged in Brooklyn’s federal court, a process which could take months (NYDN).

Kidnapped French journalists

In a video posted yesterday on a Taliban website, two French journalists who were kidnapped in the mostly French-patrolled Afghan province of Kapisa in December said their Taliban captors would execute them if the video was not played on French television and a prisoner swap arranged (AFP, CNN, Reuters). France 3 television ran footage of the video with the faces of the hostages blurred at the request of the families, and the Taliban have threatened to kill the journalists’ driver and translator too.

Three Afghan women were killed earlier today after being struck by mortar fire targeting the local district government headquarters in Kapisa, and four Afghan policemen were killed in a roadside bombing in Faryab (AP). The Post reports on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s frustration with civilian casualties in Afghanistan, a day after international forces killed at least four Afghans traveling in a passenger bus outside Kandahar city (Wash Post).

The Washington Post and the LA Times check in on different facets of the southern Afghan town Marjah, the site of a recent coalition military offensive: Rajiv Chandrasekaran describes "one of the most novel U.S. attempts to crack down on" Afghanistan’s lucrative opium trade (Wash Post); and Tony Perry and Laura King report that government presence in Marjah "is pretty thin," writing that Taliban fighters are still planting roadside bombs and intimidating residents (LAT).

Corruption remains at the top of the list of Afghan concerns, and Kazakhstan has agreed to allow military overflights, providing a faster route for U.S. supplies to reach the Afghan theater (McClatchy, NYT). The AP reports that 77 percent of international aid spent in Afghanistan since 2001 has been disbursed with little or no input from Afghan officials, according to the Afghan finance ministry, and Afghan officials are seeking greater involvement (AP).

Bootlegging, Pakistan style

Although alcohol has been illegal in Pakistan since the 1970s, a shadowy network of bootleggers is thriving across the country (NYT). However, due to the added costs and delivery risks, a beer can cost as much as $8, and bottles of whiskey range from $25 to $50.

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