Daily brief: Kabul suicide blast kills 8

Finest attacked In an attack a Taliban spokesman claimed was targeted at the chief of the security firm Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, a suicide bomber opened fire and then detonated explosives at the Finest store, a supermarket in Kabul often frequented by foreigners (Pajhwok, AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC, NYT). Three female foreigners and ...

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Finest attacked

In an attack a Taliban spokesman claimed was targeted at the chief of the security firm Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, a suicide bomber opened fire and then detonated explosives at the Finest store, a supermarket in Kabul often frequented by foreigners (Pajhwok, AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC, NYT). Three female foreigners and a child were reportedly among the 8 people killed, and a dozen others were wounded.

A U.S. Senate aide tells Reuters that a plan to boost Afghan security forces to 378,000 by October 2012, up from this year's goal of 305,000, would cost up to an extra $2 billion a year (Reuters). Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin has urged the Obama administration to approve the buildup.

Finest attacked

In an attack a Taliban spokesman claimed was targeted at the chief of the security firm Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, a suicide bomber opened fire and then detonated explosives at the Finest store, a supermarket in Kabul often frequented by foreigners (Pajhwok, AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC, NYT). Three female foreigners and a child were reportedly among the 8 people killed, and a dozen others were wounded.

A U.S. Senate aide tells Reuters that a plan to boost Afghan security forces to 378,000 by October 2012, up from this year’s goal of 305,000, would cost up to an extra $2 billion a year (Reuters). Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin has urged the Obama administration to approve the buildup.

At a meeting in Islamabad yesterday, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rassoul agreed to establish a joint commission, including diplomatic, military, and intelligence officials, for negotiations with the Taliban, indicating Pakistan’s formal role in the Afghan reconciliation process (ET, Dawn). They also agreed on a prisoner exchange (Pajhwok). Pakistan has also asked for U.S. help to ensure the security of the TAPI — Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India — Pipeline for natural gas through central Asia (WSJ).

Damage control

The American man who reportedly shot and killed two Pakistanis who were possibly attempting to rob him yesterday in Lahore, identified as Raymond Davis and described variously as a U.S. consular official, a technical adviser to the consulate, an employee, a security official, or a diplomat, has been charged with double murder and is being held in Pakistani custody (AFP, BBC, Daily Times, The News, NYT, Post, WSJ, CNN, ET, Guardian, Dawn). A murder case has also been registered by the family of a third man, a pedestrian who was killed by another American vehicle leaving the scene yesterday. Davis appeared before a judge today in Lahore and was ordered to be held in police custody, as the U.S. seeks to contain the damage from the incident (ET, AP). Around 100 people protested and burned the American flag in Karachi earlier today.

Pakistani military operations continue in Mohmand, and 12 militants were reportedly killed yesterday and 3 today in separate clashes in the northwest tribal agency (ET, AFP). In South Waziristan, militants blew up a secondary school (Daily Times).

And Omar Waraich follows up on many Pakistanis’ adulation of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, who has been lauded as a "hero of Islam" across the country, as "mainstream Pakistan…slipped into quiet assent" (Independent). Qadri’s family members said they had no idea of his plans to assassinate Taseer.

The art of Pakistan

A new exhibit featuring "Famous Artists of Punjab" is currently on display in Rawalpindi courtesy of the Rawalpindi Arts Council (Daily Times). 40 paintings are featured in the set, which aims to capture "natural beauty in an artistic way."

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