Daily brief: Kandahar deputy mayor killed

Shot during prayer Taliban militants shot and killed the vice mayor of Kandahar city, Azizullah Yarmal, last night as he prayed during services at a mosque in the southern Afghan province, the latest in a string of Afghan officials to be targeted in Kandahar (NYT, AP, Pajhwok, LAT, BBC). Yarmal was one of the city’s ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Shot during prayer

Taliban militants shot and killed the vice mayor of Kandahar city, Azizullah Yarmal, last night as he prayed during services at a mosque in the southern Afghan province, the latest in a string of Afghan officials to be targeted in Kandahar (NYT, AP, Pajhwok, LAT, BBC). Yarmal was one of the city's respected public officials, and a Taliban spokesman said he was killed because he "was working for this puppet government." Also yesterday in Kandahar city, a donkey carrying explosives blew up at a police checkpoint outside the home of the former governor of Spin Boldak district, a key ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar (NYT, CNN, Pajhwok). A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 11 foreigners were killed; however, the three people reported killed in the blast were Haji Fazluddin Agha's teenage grandchildren.

Yesterday evening, NATO troops fired on a vehicle which reportedly ignored light signals and warning shots to slow down as it approached their military convoy, killing four in the latest 'escalation of force incident' in Khost (Reuters, Pajhwok, ISAF). Also in Khost, a motorcycle bomb exploded earlier this morning outside the main police station in the town, and no casualties were reported; and four children were reportedly killed in crossfire in the Gurbuz district of Khost (Reuters, AFP). Al Jazeera checks on the status of the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, which NATO forces recently left, finding that the Taliban have "control of the area and access to every part" of the base (AJE).

Shot during prayer

Taliban militants shot and killed the vice mayor of Kandahar city, Azizullah Yarmal, last night as he prayed during services at a mosque in the southern Afghan province, the latest in a string of Afghan officials to be targeted in Kandahar (NYT, AP, Pajhwok, LAT, BBC). Yarmal was one of the city’s respected public officials, and a Taliban spokesman said he was killed because he "was working for this puppet government." Also yesterday in Kandahar city, a donkey carrying explosives blew up at a police checkpoint outside the home of the former governor of Spin Boldak district, a key ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar (NYT, CNN, Pajhwok). A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 11 foreigners were killed; however, the three people reported killed in the blast were Haji Fazluddin Agha’s teenage grandchildren.

Yesterday evening, NATO troops fired on a vehicle which reportedly ignored light signals and warning shots to slow down as it approached their military convoy, killing four in the latest ‘escalation of force incident’ in Khost (Reuters, Pajhwok, ISAF). Also in Khost, a motorcycle bomb exploded earlier this morning outside the main police station in the town, and no casualties were reported; and four children were reportedly killed in crossfire in the Gurbuz district of Khost (Reuters, AFP). Al Jazeera checks on the status of the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, which NATO forces recently left, finding that the Taliban have "control of the area and access to every part" of the base (AJE).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due in Washington from May 10 to 14 for meetings with the White House and top officials, signaling that the Obama administration is seeking to move past the recent rough patch in the Kabul-DC relationship (Wash Post). And a follow-on conference to the January meeting in London will take place in Kabul on July 20 (AFP). Another gathering to watch for is a convening of 40 international envoys to Afghanistan to take place in Madrid in June.

Peshawar under fire

A teenage suicide bomber armed with around 15 pounds of explosives detonated near police guarding a Jamaat-e-Islami protest against electricity outages in an area called the Storytellers Bazaar in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar yesterday evening (Reuters, CNN, ET, AJE, Dawn, Pajhwok). Around two dozen people were killed, including a local JI leader, and some reports suggest the target was the deputy superintendent of the Peshawar police, who is Shia; if true, the attack would be the third against Shia in Pakistan in four days (NYT). For three days, Peshawar is closed for mourning, and a politician from the JI — a pro-Islamist political party — blamed Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. for the attack, which JI leaders have so far blamed on the CIA or Indian intelligence (Geo, ET, AP). Pakistani authorities suspect Taliban militants carried out the bombing, but no group has claimed responsibility so far.

In a jirga yesterday in Tank, elders from the Mehsud tribe agreed to help sustain peace in their home areas in South Waziristan, where sporadic military operations continue after last fall’s major Pakistani offensive there (Daily Times).

Al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders killed

The top two leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq were reportedly killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation early Sunday morning near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, which Vice President Joe Biden called "potentially devastating blows" to the insurgent group (NYT, WSJ, Wash Post, Times, Reuters, FT, Independent, LAT, AJE, AFP, McClatchy). Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was an Egyptian "anointed by Osama bin Laden" to lead AQI after the 2006 death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; less is known about Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the mysterious Iraqi who led the Islamic State of Iraq, whose real name military officials say is Hamid Dawud Mohammed Khalil al-Zawi. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claimed that during the raid, computers were seized with emails and messages to bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri (AFP). Baghdadi has at various times been reported killed, detained, or imaginary.

Taekwondo chop!

Afghan taekwondo athletes returned home to great fanfare last week after winning four gold medals at a tournament in Tehran (Pajhwok). The competitors also earned a silver and three bronzes.

Sign up here to receive the daily brief in your inbox. Follow the AfPak Channel on Twitter and Facebook.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.