Daily brief: Taliban attack Peshawar police

The most dangerous place According to National Counterterrorism Center statistics for 2009, South Asia is now the "top terror region in the world," edging past the Middle East, after attacks against civilians spiked in Pakistan and Afghanistan and declined in Iraq last year (AP). The NCTC’s figures will be released later this week in conjunction ...

HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images
HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images
HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images

The most dangerous place

According to National Counterterrorism Center statistics for 2009, South Asia is now the "top terror region in the world," edging past the Middle East, after attacks against civilians spiked in Pakistan and Afghanistan and declined in Iraq last year (AP). The NCTC's figures will be released later this week in conjunction with the State Department's annual global terrorism assessment.

A Taliban militant coming reportedly from the tribal regions drove a vehicle filled with 440 pounds of explosives into a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Peshawar, killing four Pakistani policemen early this morning (AP, AFP, Reuters, Geo, AJE). A spokesman for the militant group said the attack was in revenge for military operations "from Khyber to Waziristan" and warned that more attacks are coming. Yesterday, Pakistani security forces in Dir arrested one of the sons of Sufi Muhammad, the currently jailed founder of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) militant organization (ET).

The most dangerous place

According to National Counterterrorism Center statistics for 2009, South Asia is now the "top terror region in the world," edging past the Middle East, after attacks against civilians spiked in Pakistan and Afghanistan and declined in Iraq last year (AP). The NCTC’s figures will be released later this week in conjunction with the State Department’s annual global terrorism assessment.

A Taliban militant coming reportedly from the tribal regions drove a vehicle filled with 440 pounds of explosives into a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Peshawar, killing four Pakistani policemen early this morning (AP, AFP, Reuters, Geo, AJE). A spokesman for the militant group said the attack was in revenge for military operations "from Khyber to Waziristan" and warned that more attacks are coming. Yesterday, Pakistani security forces in Dir arrested one of the sons of Sufi Muhammad, the currently jailed founder of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) militant organization (ET).

Pakistan and India’s prime ministers will reportedly talk on the sidelines of the ongoing South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meeting in Bhutan, which is focusing on climate change (AP, Reuters, AFP, AFP). It will be their first meeting in nine months.

Socks, ponchos, and sleeping bags

Yesterday, in a Manhattan federal court a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen and former Brooklyn college student who was extradited from the U.K. three years ago pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaeda, admitting that while living in London he helped a friend send waterproof socks, ponchos, and sleeping bags to al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, and lent his friend $300 (Reuters, AJE, BBC, NYT). Syed Hashmi could have faced up to 70 years in prison if convicted of the four charges he originally faced, but under this deal the government has dropped the three others and he will be sentenced on June 7; both sides have reportedly agreed that 15 years is a "reasonable sentence" (NYT).

The decision in the case of the five American Muslims from the DC area who were arrested in Pakistan on terrorism charges late last year is expected within a month, and the U.S. is reportedly seeking custody of the men after the Pakistani legal proceedings are completed (Dawn, CNN, Daily Times). The next hearing is scheduled for May 6.

The Afghan front

Violence in Kandahar, the expected site of the next major coalition offensive in Afghanistan, continues as militants attacked a compound near Kandahar city that provided logistical support to NATO troops there last night, leaving at least three security guards dead, and a tribal elder was gunned down near his home earlier this morning (AP, Pajhwok, CNN, AJE, Pajhwok). A dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed by a roadside bombing in Khost province (Reuters).

Anand Gopal has today’s must-read looking at some concerns about the U.S.’s plan to fund tribal militias to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan: infighting in the Shinwari tribe in eastern Afghanistan has brought an arrangement there to a standstill, and tribal elders from clans other than the one that made the agreement with the Americans say, "Those tribal elders don’t represent us, and they don’t speak for all Shinwaris" (McClatchy). In some parts of Kunduz, locals claim the new militias are worse than the Taliban; another complaint is that the militias could undermine the development of Afghan national security forces.

Today is the 18th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet-installed government in Kabul, which fell in April 1992 when anti-Soviet rebels seized the Afghan capital, three years after the Soviets withdrew; Afghans are celebrating with a military parade (AP, Pajhwok, AFP). The 1992 mujahideen victory preceded a brutal civil war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon is investigating whether the DoD official accused of running an off-the-books spy operation in Afghanistan also violated Pentagon rules and regulations on intelligence gathering, in addition to the criminal probe (Reuters). The families of three British soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. airstrike on British troops in Helmand are upset that Britain’s Ministry of Defense has apparently "backed the American stance" of not releasing the official Pentagon report into the incident (Guardian).

Another round?

The Murree Brewery in Rawalpindi is still standing despite more than a century with riots, restrictions, and shutdowns (Wash Post). The Bhandara family, which owns the brewery, has over the years added whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka to the options, and also produces soda and juice.

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