Daily brief: 5 dead in Swat Valley suicide attack

A bloody attack In the deadliest attack in Pakistan’s Swat Valley since February, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a bus terminal and a military convoy in the main town of Mingora, killing at least five and wounding around five dozen more earlier today (Geo, ET, AP, AFP, BBC, Reuters). There have been no ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

A bloody attack

In the deadliest attack in Pakistan's Swat Valley since February, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a bus terminal and a military convoy in the main town of Mingora, killing at least five and wounding around five dozen more earlier today (Geo, ET, AP, AFP, BBC, Reuters). There have been no claims of responsibility yet. Fighting continues in Orakzai, and Pakistani police have reportedly arrested nearly 100 more people in the third day of a sweep in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, that has netted close to 700 suspected militants (Geo, The News).

Flashpoint

A bloody attack

In the deadliest attack in Pakistan’s Swat Valley since February, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a bus terminal and a military convoy in the main town of Mingora, killing at least five and wounding around five dozen more earlier today (Geo, ET, AP, AFP, BBC, Reuters). There have been no claims of responsibility yet. Fighting continues in Orakzai, and Pakistani police have reportedly arrested nearly 100 more people in the third day of a sweep in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, that has netted close to 700 suspected militants (Geo, The News).

Flashpoint

Tensions remain high in Indian-administered Kashmir, where thousands of locals in Srinagar are involved in separatist protests, as the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan meet today to discuss Indian concerns about terrorism, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s role in the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai (AFP, AP, AFP, Indian Express, AJE). Likely to be high on the agenda in the talks are recent allegations by India’s home secretary G. K. Pillai that Pakistan’s spy agency the ISI was "literally controlling and coordinating [the Mumbai attacks] from the beginning until the end," based apparently on information that has emerged from interrogation by Indian officials of David Coleman Headley, the Chicago man who has pleaded guilty to working with Lashkar-e-Taiba to plan the assault (Indian Express, Reuters, NDTV, Tel, LAT).

The two ministers are expected to give a joint press conference later today (Hindustan Times, The News). India’s S. M. Krishna has dodged the question of whether India and Pakistan will resume playing cricket, and reportedly plans to call on Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after the presser.

The Guardian has a fascinating look at timber smuggling in Kashmir, where local men who cut down the region’s tall pine trees are paid around 2,000 rupees (£30, $46) per tree, though half that sum goes to bribes for forestry officials and police (Guardian).

Failed at martyrdom

Al-Arabiya television broadcast excerpts of what it reports is failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad’s ‘martyrdom video,’ in which Shahzad claims his planned attack was for "revenge," mentioning the killings of al-Qaeda in Iraq founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud (Arabiya-Arabic, AP, Tel, BBC, ABC, NYT, Bloomberg, Wired, Geo). Featured at some point in the 40 minute Umar Media video are Bajaur Taliban head Maulvi Faqir Muhammad and current TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, underlining the Taliban in Pakistan’s involvement in Shahzad’s plot.

Stamping approval

After nearly two weeks of talks, the Afghan government approved a controversial program backed by Gen. David Petraeus to expand and arm local defense forces across Afghanistan (NYT, WSJ, AP). Afghan leader Hamid Karzai was reportedly hesitant to endorse the local forces, which he feared could "harden into militias that his weak government could not control," but the Local Police Force initiative will be directly administered and paid for by Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry (NYT). The initiative calls for 10,000 "community police" officers across the country (Wash Post).

In one of the deadliest periods for the U.S. in Afghanistan in recent weeks, eight U.S. soldiers were killed in three separate attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday, as the coalition continues preparing for military operations in the southern province of Kandahar (LAT, Wash Post, ABC). Five officials with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health have been kidnapped in Kandahar, while a local district leader from Uruzgan has been killed reportedly on the orders of Taliban leader Mullah Omar (AP, ISAF). And in Helmand, Marjah leader Haji Zahir has been replaced by Abdul Mutalib, while London’s Independent reports that Talib Hussein, the Afghan National Army soldier who is on the run after shooting three British troops in Helmand earlier this week, is a member of Afghanistan’s minority Hazara community (AP, Independent).

More options for wasting time online

Pakistani engineers have launched BuddyFlick.com, a uniquely Pakistani version of the social networking site Facebook (Daily Times). Though still in the development stages, the website will eventually feature Twitter integration, games, photos, quizzes, fan pages, and more.

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