Daily brief: Pakistan cuts NATO supply line after border firing
Tensions rising NATO helicopter raids targeted the northwest Pakistani tribal region of Kurram twice today, killing three Pakistani paramilitary soldiers in one of the attacks, which a NATO spokesman said came after coalition forces in Paktia reported receiving fire from insurgents (AP, BBC, Geo, Dawn/Reuters, ET). The spokesman said the air weapons team reported that ...
NATO helicopter raids targeted the northwest Pakistani tribal region of Kurram twice today, killing three Pakistani paramilitary soldiers in one of the attacks, which a NATO spokesman said came after coalition forces in Paktia reported receiving fire from insurgents (AP, BBC, Geo, Dawn/Reuters, ET). The spokesman said the air weapons team reported that it did not cross into Pakistani airspace, and the coalition is investigating. Several hours later, Pakistani authorities blocked a vital supply route, the Torkham checkpoint, for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in apparent retaliation (AJE, AP, Post). Some 80 percent of nonlethal supplies for the war effort are transported over Pakistani soil.
A top commander of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in South Waziristan, Wali ur-Rehman, in a 65-minute video released yesterday asserted his group’s ties with al-Qaeda and threatened to "expand this war during the next ten years" (Reuters). A U.S.-born spokesman for al-Qaeda, Adam Gadahn, criticized the Pakistani government’s response to flooding in the country and encouraged Pakistanis to join the militant movement, in a 7-minute video in English with Arabic subtitles released yesterday (CNN, AP).
The plot thickens
Eight Germans and two British brothers are allegedly at the heart of the recently disclosed al-Qaeda linked plot to attack European capitals; one of the Britons was reportedly killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan in early September, and as many as 20 British passport holders are believed to have traveled to militant training camps there (AP, Tel, FT, Spiegel, ABC, Post). Around 60 Germans are said to be in North Waziristan now. A law enforcement source told CNN that Osama bin Laden may have signed off on the European plan (CNN).
The Europe plot may have involved coordinated attacks, possibly shooting sprees on civilian targets, in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium (CNN, WSJ, Independent, Fox). European and American officials say that while they have seen a variety of credible threats from Pakistan and North Africa and the plot is still "active," the plans appear to be aspirational (AP, NYT, WSJ).
Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad said in a video filmed in Pakistan submitted by the prosecution yesterday that he had planned a second attack two weeks after the first and thought his bomb would kill at least 40 people (AP, NYT, Tel, Dawn). Shahzad, who allegedly communicated with the TTP using software the group installed on his laptop during his training in Pakistan, is due to be sentenced in October 5 and is expected to receive life in prison. The Pakistani government has just detained Faisal Abbasi, an employee at Pakistan’s state-run Islamic advisory body, for allegedly assisting Shahzad (AP).
A video that is believed to have taken place in the Swat Valley shows six young men in civilian clothes being shot by men wearing uniforms of the Pakistani military and firing weapons that are standard issue for the Pakistani Army, rarely used by insurgents, raising concerns about extrajudicial executions in Pakistan (NYT). Though the Pakistani military asserts that militants faked the video, retired senior Pakistani Army officers, American officials, and retired American military officers and intelligence analysts said it appears to be credible.
The Post adds to reporting about the Pakistani military’s growing frustration with its civilian government, which has been criticized for a bungled response to flooding in Pakistan and its management of the country’s shaky economy (Post). Former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup in 1999, warned yesterday that the Army could stage a coup (AFP). Musharraf is in the midst of relaunching his political career with the formation of his All Pakistan Muslim League (Guardian).
Flood watch: As winter approaches in Pakistan, victims of the floods lack proper clothing and protection, and areas of the country remain submerged (ET). Some 21 million people have been affected by the flooding (AFP). Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari asked the Pakistani government to levy a one-time tax on the wealthy to contribute to relief efforts (Dawn).
Deadly blasts in Afghanistan
A suicide attack targeting a NATO convoy in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar left three civilians dead earlier today, and an Afghan official claims a NATO raid in Ghazni killed four Afghan children (Pajhwok, AP, AJE, Pajhwok). Around 900 families have been displaced from the Kandahar districts of Arghandab and Zhari, where Operation Dragon Strike is underway, to Kandahar city in recent weeks (AFP).
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported earlier today that opium output in Afghanistan has dropped by almost 50 percent in the last year, and its value has risen by 38 percent (AFP, Pajhwok, UNODC). The Afghan government announced it is investigating whether relatives or close associates of top officials are receiving bribes or kickbacks by instructing all domestic and international companies to provide information about payments to them (AP).
Your next vacation
Officials in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture said recently that around 2,000 people visit Afghanistan as tourists each year, and there are at least 400 tourist agencies in the country (Tolo). Some 100,000 tourists used to travel to Afghanistan each year before the Soviet invasion in 1979.
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