Daily brief: suicide bombing kills Afghan deputy governor
Of sighs and tears Deputy governor for the Afghan province of Ghazni Mohammad Kazim Allahyar was killed earlier today, along with his son, nephew, and three others, when a Taliban suicide bomber drove his motorized rickshaw into their vehicle traveling on the Kabul to Kandahar highway (AFP, AP, Pajhwok, BBC). Afghan President Hamid Karzai, giving ...
Of sighs and tears
Of sighs and tears
Deputy governor for the Afghan province of Ghazni Mohammad Kazim Allahyar was killed earlier today, along with his son, nephew, and three others, when a Taliban suicide bomber drove his motorized rickshaw into their vehicle traveling on the Kabul to Kandahar highway (AFP, AP, Pajhwok, BBC). Afghan President Hamid Karzai, giving a speech in Kabul to mark literacy day and lamenting the violence in Afghanistan, reportedly wept alongside members of the audience as he worried about his toddler son potentially leaving Afghanistan (AFP, AP, BBC). "I want him to go to school here, I swear to God I’m worried, I’m worried, oh people, I’m worried… I don’t want my son Mirwais to be a foreigner. I want Mirwais to be Afghan," Karzai said.
The National Security Agency has reportedly been wiretapping one of Karzai’s brothers, Mahmood, as part of a federal investigation into allegations of tax evasion, racketeering, and extortion (NYT, Tel, Times). As U.S. officials turn up the pressure on Mahmood, they seem to be toning down comments about Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother who is a strongman in Kandahar, reflecting an evolving Western approach to dealing with corruption in Afghanistan (WSJ).
Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, said yesterday that "very high-level Taliban leaders" have reached out to the Karzai government in the context of beginning reconciliation talks (NYT, AP, AFP, CBS). McClatchy reports, however, that Afghan officials said the Taliban officials aren’t "senior leaders" (McClatchy). The Afghan government has just appointed nearly 70 people — former Taliban, jihadi leaders, former members of the communist government, and others — to a High Peace Council designed to pursue reconciliation (AP).
State of denial
Though a Taliban spokesman denied the group’s involvement in the kidnapping of a British aid worker in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, a local commander has reportedly claimed that he wishes to trade her for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistan scientist who was recently sentenced to 86 years in jail in the U.S. for attempted murder (Pajhwok, Times). NATO forces have launched a search operation for the British woman and her three Afghan colleagues, who were also abducted. Bonus read: the real injustice in Pakistan isn’t the conviction of Aafia Siddiqui (FP).
At the first day of pre-trial hearings yesterday about Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock’s alleged involvement in killing three Afghan civilians for sport earlier this year, 10 key witnesses, including several of the other soldiers also accused in the case, invoked their rights to remain silent (Reuters, AFP). CNN has tapes of interrogations of Morlock and others in which they describe the alleged murders (CNN).
Part two of Bob Woodward’s series of articles based on his new book describing the Obama administration’s Afghanistan war deliberations ends with a scene at a National Security Council meeting on April 16, when Barack Obama "learned that his new strategy was not going as planned" (Post). Woodward writes, "The model had become: clear, hold, hold, hold, hold and hold."
The drone wars
This month’s 21 reported drone strikes in Pakistan — the most strikes recorded in a month since 2004 — are reportedly part of a CIA effort to disrupt a suspected plot against targets in Europe, including in Germany, France, and the U.K. (WSJ, NYT). A tribal elder from North Waziristan, where the majority of the strikes have taken place, said that civilians living among militants in the area are terrified: "We understand the drones target hideouts and compounds used by militants, but we are afraid of drones missing the target" (Post). For more about the drone war, including an interactive map of every reported strike since 2004, click here (NAF). For more about the connection between Pakistan’s tribal areas and militant plots against the West, click here (NAF).
Pakistani officials have vehemently protested last weekend’s NATO helicopter strikes on the Pakistani side of the border, denying that an agreement exists that permits U.S. forces to cross if they are in hot pursuit of a target or are under attack (AP, Post, ET, AJE, Independent, Guardian, LAT, McClatchy, FT, CNN). Pakistan’s Foreign Office issued a statement calling the helicopter strikes a "violation of [Pakistan’s] sovereignty and the U.N. mandate for coalition operations in Afghanistan" and threatened "response options" in the absence of "immediate corrective measures" (Dawn).
Schools across Indian-administered Kashmir were open yesterday after more than three months of closure due to curfews and strikes, and in rural areas some 80 percent of students attended class, while in towns other than Srinagar 35 percent went back to school (BBC, HT, NDTV). Curfews have been relaxed in several towns across the valley (Hindu). The Kashmir separatist group JKLF has strongly criticized Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity front for the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, accusing it and other Pakistani militants of "hijacking" its cause and "subverting the indigenous movement" (BBC).
Joined the choir invisible
An Australian parrot at a wildlife park in Islamabad has been attracting crowds with his sad songs, which he croons in mourning for his deceased female partner (The News). Park officials say the parrot only talks to young ladies who visit his cage — no men.
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