The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: 3 explosions strike Kandahar
The drumbeat grows louder Two blasts within a minute rattled downtown Kandahar earlier today, one reportedly targeting the city’s police chief, and two hours later a third attack hit north of the city (AP, Pajhwok, BBC, CNN). Two civilians were killed and three others, including an Afghan policeman, were wounded. On Sunday morning, the 12th ...
The drumbeat grows louder
Two blasts within a minute rattled downtown Kandahar earlier today, one reportedly targeting the city’s police chief, and two hours later a third attack hit north of the city (AP, Pajhwok, BBC, CNN). Two civilians were killed and three others, including an Afghan policeman, were wounded. On Sunday morning, the 12th assassination in two months left the brother of an Afghan senator dead (NYT). Ahead of major coalition operations in the southern Afghan province, elite U.S. Special Operations Forces are "picking up or picking off" Taliban leaders in order to weaken the insurgency; the overt parts of the offensive are expected to begin "in coming weeks" (NYT).
On Sunday morning, around 100 Afghan protesters burned 12 NATO trucks carrying fuel to a base in eastern Afghanistan, objecting to two raids by joint U.S.-Afghan forces over the weekend that allegedly left civilians dead (NYT, Wash Post, Quqnoos, ISAF). Afghan and NATO officials said the men killed and captured were insurgents, however, and collected AK-47s and pistols along with Pakistani passports from the home in the raid. In Zabul, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the Shah Joy Bazaar, the first such attack there since the Afghan new year began in March (NYT, BBC). And British forces based in Helmand may be among the last to turn over authority to local security forces (Tel).
Around 80 girls in three different schools within a few miles in northern Kunduz province have mysteriously fallen ill after complaining of a strange smell in their classrooms (AP, AP, BBC, NYT). Some local authorities have blamed the Taliban for attacking girls’ education, but no scientific evidence has been brought forth showing that the illness was caused by anything ingested or inhaled, and the Taliban’s spokesman denied involvement (Independent, Pajhwok). More than 1,500 girls stayed home from school yesterday (Pajhwok).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in India today meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian officials to discuss a host of issues including the security of Indian workers in Afghanistan, talks with the Taliban, and Indian aid to Afghanistan (Guardian, Pajhwok, AFP). The AP describes India and Pakistan’s competition over influence in Afghanistan, and a senior adviser to the Afghan Foreign Ministry commented wearily, "We don’t want to be forced to choose between India and Pakistan" (AP). Al-Jazeera reports that a Pakistani army officer was among 16 people arrested recently in Kabul on suspicion of planning suicide attacks, which Pakistan denied (AJE).
Of drones in Pakistan
A handful of alleged militants were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan earlier this morning, two days after a drone reportedly killed as many as eight in a nearby area (Geo, AFP, AP, Reuters, BBC; CNN, Geo, AP, Geo, AFP, Reuters). Joby Warrick and Peter Finn have today’s must-read reporting that the CIA, which operates the drone strikes, has been using smaller missiles to minimize civilian casualties in Pakistan’s northwest (Wash Post). The Agency is also using unarmed surveillance drones "roughly the size of a pizza platter" that are so quiet that they "can be outside your window and you won’t hear a whisper," according to a former official who worked with them.
In a possibly unprecedented such attack on Pakistan’s Punjab province, suspected militants opened fire on NATO tankers parked at a gas station in Chakwal district, then set at least six oil trucks on fire (AP, AJE, Dawn, AFP, AFP/ET). Up to four Pakistani policemen were killed. In Lower Dir on Saturday morning, a suicide car bomber attacked a prison van in Timergarah that was picking up prisoners to take to the nearby Swat Valley (AP). Ten Pakistani policemen were injured. And fighting continues in Orakzai, with as many as 28 suspected Taliban fighters killed over the weekend (ET, AP/Dawn, Daily Times).
The Zazi plot thickens
The Wall Street Journal reports that in spite of a warning from the FBI to stop and search would-be New York City subway bomber Najibullah Zazi’s car as it crossed the George Washington Bridge last September, Port Authority police waved him across and failed to find the two pounds of explosives hidden inside (WSJ). Zazi, a onetime coffee cart vendor, reportedly met with two senior al-Qaeda operatives in Waziristan, Saleh al-Somali and Rashid Rauf (NYT, Tel, AP). Zazi has pleaded guilty and his sentencing is set for June 25.
Happy birthday Pajhwok!
Pajhwok Afghan News celebrated its sixth anniversary on Saturday night with an event at a hotel in Kabul that ended with traditional Afghan music and dancing (Pajhwok). Pajhwok, which means "reflect" in Dari, has 44 reporters, 10 editors, 15 translators, four photographers, and four copy editors.