Daily brief: Taliban attack NATO supply trucks in Pakistan

Attacks on NATO supply lines continue A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has taken responsibility for Friday’s attack on NATO tankers in Sindh and for another attack early this morning on the outskirts of Islamabad in which gunmen shot up about 20 NATO trucks, killing at least four (AP, The News, AP, AFP, AJE, WSJ, ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Attacks on NATO supply lines continue

A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has taken responsibility for Friday's attack on NATO tankers in Sindh and for another attack early this morning on the outskirts of Islamabad in which gunmen shot up about 20 NATO trucks, killing at least four (AP, The News, AP, AFP, AJE, WSJ, Geo, Tel, Guardian, Pajhwok). The TTP claims to have set up a new wing specifically to focus on attacking NATO supply lines (AP, BBC). There have been four such attacks on NATO supply lines across Pakistan in recent days, as the Pakistani government's blockade of the Torkham checkpoint in northwest Pakistan continues into its fifth day (Post, Reuters).

Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, told CNN yesterday that supply lines at Torkham, which Pakistan closed after several NATO helicopter strikes on Pakistani territory last week, will be opened within a week, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman said there is no firm date for reopening the border, which he said was closed "for security reasons" (Geo, AP, CNN, FT, NYT). The other main route from Pakistan to Afghanistan, the Chaman border crossing in southwest Pakistan, has remained open.

Attacks on NATO supply lines continue

A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has taken responsibility for Friday’s attack on NATO tankers in Sindh and for another attack early this morning on the outskirts of Islamabad in which gunmen shot up about 20 NATO trucks, killing at least four (AP, The News, AP, AFP, AJE, WSJ, Geo, Tel, Guardian, Pajhwok). The TTP claims to have set up a new wing specifically to focus on attacking NATO supply lines (AP, BBC). There have been four such attacks on NATO supply lines across Pakistan in recent days, as the Pakistani government’s blockade of the Torkham checkpoint in northwest Pakistan continues into its fifth day (Post, Reuters).

Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, told CNN yesterday that supply lines at Torkham, which Pakistan closed after several NATO helicopter strikes on Pakistani territory last week, will be opened within a week, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman said there is no firm date for reopening the border, which he said was closed "for security reasons" (Geo, AP, CNN, FT, NYT). The other main route from Pakistan to Afghanistan, the Chaman border crossing in southwest Pakistan, has remained open.

At least two drone strikes were reported in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan over the weekend, killing between nine and eighteen said to be affiliated with either the Haqqani network or Hafiz Gul Bahadur’s group (AFP, AP, BBC, CNN, Geo, NYT, AJE, ET). The bullet-riddled bodies of three men accused of "spy[ing] for the Americans" and the drone program were found on Sunday along the main road between Datta Khel and Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, in apparent militant retaliation for the recent uptick in drone strikes (Dawn/AP). The Journal and the Post report that the U.S. military is providing the CIA, which is believed to operate the drones program, with more drones and other equipment to help escalate its campaign in northwest Pakistan (WSJ, Post). Graeme Smith has the weekend’s must-read describing life in villages in Waziristan where the majority of the strikes have occurred (Globe and Mail).

Elsewhere in the tribal areas, militants blew up two schools in Mohmand and one in Bajaur (D
aily Times
, The News). The TTP has reportedly killed the leader of another militant group, the Asian Tigers, which was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of former ISI official Khalid Khawaja earlier this year (Daily Times).

Flood watch: Large areas of southern Pakistan remain submerged two months into the country’s flood crisis, and aid groups say more than two million cases of malaria are expected in the coming months (Guardian). Flooding in Pakistan has interrupted the World Food Program’s delivery of food aid to rural areas of Afghanistan, a shortage which could affect Afghans for months as winter approaches and snows cut off roads (AP).

Be on the lookout

The U.S. and U.K. have issued broad alerts to citizens traveling in Europe warning of an increased potential for possible Mumbai-style attacks in major European cities, following a weeks-long investigation into "worrisome, but nonspecific information from multiple sources," some of which is said to suggest al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden may have a role in the plot (WSJ, CNN, FT, Times, LAT, Tel, CNN). Pakistani and Western intelligence officials say that there are "dozens of Muslim militants with European citizenship" currently in Pakistan’s tribal areas and possible involved in training for attacks that could include targeting European capitals (AP). In addition to Europeans, Arabs, Chechens, Russians, Uzbeks, and Turks are said to be in the tribal areas.

Around 24 hours after his Friday audio recording, another tape from bin Laden appeared on Islamist websites and reiterated his call for Muslims around the world to provide more aid to flood-stricken Pakistan (AJE, AFP). Lawrence Wright commented to the NYT, "It’s a little galling to hear bin Laden lecturing on flood relief when al-Qaeda has never done any socially constructive work, but has only sowed chaos" (NYT).

Flashpoint

Two AP journalists were reportedly beat up by Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Friday, who refused to let them pass a checkpoint despite having curfew passes (AP, BBC). Indian authorities have re-imposed curfews in Srinagar and other parts of northern Kashmir, and opened fire on protesters in Shopian over the weekend (HT).

Security and politics

After announcing in August that it was giving security firms four months to close up shop, the Afghan government said over the weekend that it has begun disbanding firms across the country, shutting down eight and seizing around 400 weapons (Reuters, AFP, AP, Tolo, Pajhwok). Critics are reportedly concerned that the fast timeline could create problems for the military and other international groups that rely on some 40,000 employees of private contractors for security.

Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Commission has thrown out votes from 141 polling centers in the country’s September 18 parliamentary elections because of evidence of fraud (AFP). Though authorities didn’t specify how many votes were affected, each center reportedly accounted for between 1,200 and 7,200 ballots, out of 4.3 million cast.

Spotlight on southern Afghanistan

The U.S. military has apologized for two attacks against militants in which civilians were killed over the weekend, in Logar and Helmand (NYT). In the Helmand attack, coalition forces re
portedly killed the Taliban’s shadow governor in Nad Ali. The Times of London profiles the Taliban’s shadow government in Helmand, which "despite the record numbers of U.S. and British troops" is seemingly operating "in plain sight…levy[ing] taxes, arrest[ing] criminals and hold[ing] court" (Times). In Marjah, the Helmandi area that was the site of a major coalition offensive earlier this year, female Marines have been part of new "female engagement teams" whose mission was to approach Pashtun women, "culturally off limits to outside men," and assess their needs, gather intelligence, and help open clinics and schools (NYT). The experiment has reportedly been judged a success.

In neighboring Kandahar, the deputy mayor of Kandahar City was attacked and seriously wounded by unknown gunmen earlier today (Pajhwok). The Independent has a lengthy profile of Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s controversial half-brother who is a strongman in Kandahar, who commented, "I have been accused of so many things that I have begun to forget them. The only thing I have not been accused of so far is prostitution" (Independent). In the Kandahari district of Spin Boldak, on the border with Pakistan, Col. Abdul Razziq of the Afghan Border Police, despite allegations of graft, involvement in the narcotics trade, and corruption, has "managed to achieve a degree of security here that has eluded U.S. troops elsewhere in the country" (Post).

Two more stories round out the weekend: the three Afghan aid workers who were kidnapped along with a British coworker last week have been freed, though the British woman is still being held (Pajhwok); and the Taliban’s media strategy in Afghanistan has been improving in recent months as propaganda depicts the West as on the brink of defeat, seeks to exploit rifts between the Afghan government and the Obama administration, and derides the Karzai government as a "puppet" state (Post).

I want my Bollywood

The owner of a satellite television shop in Lahore said that he has sold 300 satellite dishes and receivers in the last month, three times what he would normally expect, as Pakistani viewers eager for programming seek ways around the Pakistani government’s ban of some 30 channels earlier this year (Tel). Sales assistants say the trend is driven by women looking for daytime soaps.

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