Daily brief: ‘Terror’ attacks hit Stockholm
Event notice: Tomorrow at 12:15pm EST in DC, please join the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative for a discussion of Nelly Lahoud’s new book, The Jihadis’ Path to Self-Destruction. Details and RSVP here. Attacks in Sweden Two explosions hit Drottninggatan, a busy pedestrian shopping area in Stockholm a few minutes and several hundred yards ...
Event notice: Tomorrow at 12:15pm EST in DC, please join the New America Foundation's Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative for a discussion of Nelly Lahoud's new book, The Jihadis' Path to Self-Destruction. Details and RSVP here.
Event notice: Tomorrow at 12:15pm EST in DC, please join the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative for a discussion of Nelly Lahoud’s new book, The Jihadis’ Path to Self-Destruction. Details and RSVP here.
Attacks in Sweden
Two explosions hit Drottninggatan, a busy pedestrian shopping area in Stockholm a few minutes and several hundred yards apart on Saturday afternoon, in what Swedish authorities are treating as a "terrorist crime" and suspect may be Sweden’s first suicide attack (WSJ, AP, DN, Local). The only person killed in the blasts, the first of which appeared to be from a white Audi filled with gas canisters bursting into flames and the second of which was the reported suicide blast, is believed to be the attacker, a man British and Swedish outlets and officials have identified as the 28 year old Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi-born Swede who reportedly lived in the U.K. for the last decade (Tel, NYT, DN, AJE, AP, DN). An Islamist website also identified him as the man "who carried out the martyrdom operation in Stockholm" (AFP, Local). Two people were injured in the attacks, and Swedish prosecutors say his bombs likely detonated prematurely (AP).
Several minutes before the blasts, the Swedish news wire TT and Sweden’s security service Sapo reportedly received an email threatening attacks on Sweden because of the country’s troops in Afghanistan and for caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad drawn by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks (BBC). Swedish prosecutor Thomas Lindstrand said the message was sent from the dead man’s phone (WSJ, AP). A Swedish Armed Forces employee also reportedly told an acquaintance several hours before the attacks to avoid the area (Local).
The NYT, BBC, and the Guardian have profiles of what is known about the alleged attacker, who was found after the second attack surrounded by pipe bombs and a bag of nails, a Sunni Muslim whose family moved to Sweden from Baghdad in 1992 and is believed to have studied physical therapy at the University of Bedforshire in England (DN, NYT, BBC, Guardian). British authorities have searched a house in Luton, where Al-Abdaly’s wife and three young children are said to be living (FT, Tel, BBC, AFP, WSJ). A will purportedly from Al-Abdaly on an Islamist web site reportedly states that he was fulfilling a threat by al-Qaeda in Iraq to attack Sweden (Local).
Sweden’s prime minister has urged the country to "stand up for tolerance" (Post).
Two new National Intelligence Estimates, one on Pakistan and one on Afghanistan, reportedly paint bleak pictures of the security conditions there, with the Afghanistan report concluding that the war cannot be won unless Pakistan takes on militants in its tribal areas and the Pakistan report assessing that the Pakistani government and military "are not willing to do that" (AP). Military officials say the reports are based on outdated information and don’t take into account progress made this fall.
Obama administration representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Richard Holbrooke collapsed at the State Department during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday morning, and had more than 20 hours of surgery to repair a torn aorta (AFP, Bloomberg, Politico, Post, Daily Times/AFP). On Sunday, he underwent an additional procedure to improve circulation to his legs, and is said to be in critical condition.
The office of Afghanistan’s attorney general, an ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, reportedly called for the country’s September 18 parliamentary elections to be tossed out because of concerns over fraud, and urged the Supreme Court, which is packed with Karzai loyalists, to order a recount (WSJ, McClatchy). Final results were released by Afghan election authorities earlier this month and endorsed by the United Nations and Western governments. The head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission pushed back and said that annulling the vote could spark a national crisis, and claimed that a letter from the attorney general’s office called for "capital punishment" for all members of the IEC and the Electoral Complaints Commission (AP, Tolo). Failed candidates protested in Ghazni on Sunday (Pajhwok).
The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Zhari district of the southern Afghan province of Kandahar that killed six American soldiers on Sunday morning near the entrance of a new outpost jointly operated by U.S. and Afghan troops (NYT, AP, FT, Pajhwok). Four Afghan policemen and two civilians were injured in a blast outside a police headquarters in Kandahar city on Saturday (Reuters). A NATO airstrike reportedly killed at least 25 alleged insurgents in the eastern province of Kunar on Saturday, while a Taliban suicide bomber driving an Afghan police vehicle targeted an Afghan National Army convoy in Kunduz, wounding nine (AP, Reuters). In Helmand on Friday, 15 civilians were killed after a truck drove over a roadside bomb (AP). British outlets continue to note the security problems American troops are having in Sangin, the area of Helmand U.S. Marines recently assumed responsibility for from the British (Times).
Karzai met with officials from Turkmenistan, India, and Pakistan in Ashgabat over the weekend to sign an agreement for a 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline that would pass through gas-rich Turkmenistan, Kandahar, Quetta, ending in the Indian city of Fazilka, and could eventually net Afghanistan "billions of dollars in revenue" (LAT, AFP, Dawn). Afghanistan will deploy between five and seven thousand troops to protect the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) pipeline, which is due to be operational in 2014.
Yesterday, Afghan officials announced a $100 million plan to issue electronic identification cards to all Afghans within five years (AP). The Afghan Ministry of Finance is funding the program from its development budget.
James Risen reports that Hajji Juma Khan, who was arrested in 2008 to face charges under U.S. narcoterrorism laws, was also a CIA and DEA informant whose case illustrates "how the war on drugs and the war on terrorism have sometimes collided, particularly in Afghanistan, where drug dealing, the insurgency and the government often overlap" (NYT). A U.S. official defended the relationship, commenting, "You’re not going to get intelligence in a war zone from Ward Cleaver or Florence Nightingale."
Rajiv Chandrasekaran also has a pair of Post articles on the Afghan war, the first describing how the Afghan district of Nawa has become an example of "what is possible in Afghanistan when everything comes together correctly" and the second highlighting uncertainties in the U.S.’s relationship with Karzai (Post, Post). An American military official in Kabul noted, "The biggest problem in our relationship with Karzai is that we don’t have any diplomats who actually have a relationship with him."
Bomb on a school bus
On Saturday night, two Pakistani policemen were killed by unidentified gunmen on the outskirts of Peshawar, and earlier today in the northwest Pakistani city a school bus drove over a roadside bomb that killed one and injured two children (ET, AP, AP, AFP). On Friday, a suspected U.S. drone strike was reported near Mir Ali in North Waziristan (AP, Reuters, CNN, ET). Pakistani authorities have reportedly decided to close the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Kurram from December 13 to 20 because of concerns about sectarian and militant attacks during the Shia holy month of Muharram (The News). Stricter security arrangements have also reportedly been completed in Karachi (Dawn).
A Muslim doctor who threw away the business card of a pharmaceutical representative named Muhammad Faizan has been arrested by Pakistani authorities in Hyderabad on allegations that he violated the country’s blasphemy laws because the representative has the same name as the Prophet Muhammad (AP).
And the LAT profiles the head of Transparency International’s office in Karachi, who some Pakistani officials have reportedly been trying to discredit, following "inquiries [that] have helped expose bidding irregularities at power plants that robbed government coffers of $2 billion, a real estate scam that cost taxpayers $16 million, and a $257-million scandal that brought down the chairman of Pakistan’s largest steel mill" (LAT).
Make way on the runway
Next year, Peshawar will host its own Fashion Week, according to Waqas Ahmed of the Peshawar Fashion Council (ET). Though there are concerns about security, Ahmed said she "felt that if every major city can have a fashion week, why not Peshawar?’
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