Daily brief: ‘schoolboy bomber’ kills 32 in NW Pakistan

Attack in Mardan Two different spokesmen for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide attack targeting a morning parade of military exercises in Mardan, Pakistan after the teenage bomber, who outlets say was wearing a schoolboy’s uniform, reportedly made it through at least six checkpoints (BBC, AP, Reuters, ET/AFP, Post, Geo, AJE, NYT, WSJ). ...

MARC BASTIAN/AFP/Getty Images
MARC BASTIAN/AFP/Getty Images
MARC BASTIAN/AFP/Getty Images

Attack in Mardan

Two different spokesmen for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide attack targeting a morning parade of military exercises in Mardan, Pakistan after the teenage bomber, who outlets say was wearing a schoolboy's uniform, reportedly made it through at least six checkpoints (BBC, AP, Reuters, ET/AFP, Post, Geo, AJE, NYT, WSJ). Up to 32 Pakistani soldiers were killed and dozens injured. In the tribal area of Bajaur, three women accused of being potential suicide bombers were arrested yesterday (AFP, Daily Times). In North Waziristan near Mir Ali, the bullet-riddled bodies of three men were found with notes accusing them of spying for the U.S. (AP).

The Pakistani military announced that it successfully test-fired the Hatf-VII missile, which is capable of carrying "strategic and conventional" weapons (AP, ET). The Institute for Science and International Security assesses that Pakistan has begun constructing what seems to be a fourth weapons-grade plutonium-producing reactor at Khushab, a nuclear complex southwest of Islamabad, possibly signaling an escalation in Pakistan's arms race with India (Post). Indian and Pakistani leaders have just agreed to resume formal peace talks, expected to begin by July (Reuters, AP, PTI). The formal talks would be the first since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008.

Attack in Mardan

Two different spokesmen for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide attack targeting a morning parade of military exercises in Mardan, Pakistan after the teenage bomber, who outlets say was wearing a schoolboy’s uniform, reportedly made it through at least six checkpoints (BBC, AP, Reuters, ET/AFP, Post, Geo, AJE, NYT, WSJ). Up to 32 Pakistani soldiers were killed and dozens injured. In the tribal area of Bajaur, three women accused of being potential suicide bombers were arrested yesterday (AFP, Daily Times). In North Waziristan near Mir Ali, the bullet-riddled bodies of three men were found with notes accusing them of spying for the U.S. (AP).

The Pakistani military announced that it successfully test-fired the Hatf-VII missile, which is capable of carrying "strategic and conventional" weapons (AP, ET). The Institute for Science and International Security assesses that Pakistan has begun constructing what seems to be a fourth weapons-grade plutonium-producing reactor at Khushab, a nuclear complex southwest of Islamabad, possibly signaling an escalation in Pakistan’s arms race with India (Post). Indian and Pakistani leaders have just agreed to resume formal peace talks, expected to begin by July (Reuters, AP, PTI). The formal talks would be the first since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008.

Tensions remain high between the U.S. and Pakistan over the case of the detained American diplomat Raymond Davis, as Pakistani officials claim he "fired five shots at the Pakistani men from his vehicle and then got out to shoot two more at each of them as they lay on the ground in a busy intersection during midday traffic" and American officials say he fired five shots from within the vehicle (Post). Nick Schifrin reports that Pakistani officials believe the two men were from Pakistan’s intelligence service the ISI, and had been assigned to tail him because Pakistani officials saw him as a threat who was "encroaching on their turf," after he made some tapped phone calls to Waziristan (ABC). U.S. officials believe the men were robbers. The AP describes cell phone camera footage obtained by Dunya television of Davis’s interrogation by police in Lahore shortly after his arrest, in which Davis claims he is a consultant for the consular general in Lahore (AP). The U.S. has reportedly refused to hand over the American involved in the death of a third Pakistani man related to the Davis issue, who allegedly ran a vehicle over the man while trying to reach Davis (ET).

Attack in Kunduz

The chief of the Chahardara district of Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province was killed in a suicide attack in his office earlier today, along with two others, by a man who reportedly pretended to be looking for work (AP, Tolo, Pajhwok). Afghanistan’s intelligence service said this morning that a Haqqani network fighter held in Kabul’s Pul-i-Charki prison organized the suicide attack on the Finest supermarket in the Afghan capital late last month from within the prison (Post, NYT). The Finest attack also targeted French diplomats, not the chief of the security firm formerly known as Blackwater as was initially reported.

The NYT reports on Afghan human rights groups’ efforts to focus on Taliban human rights abuses in addition to those attributed to the coalition, and women’s rights groups are concerned that Afghan government plans to take control of women’s shelters from local charities will turn them into "virtual prisons" (NYT, Times).

Sir Simon Gass, the current British ambassador to Iran, will assume the role of NATO’s civilian representative to Afghanistan from Mark Sedwill in April, as Sedwill’s scheduled mandate ends (BBC, Reuters, AP, Tolo). And the Afghan parliament is still struggling to find a speaker (Pajhwok).

Soldier puppies

The Marines currently have 170 bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan, and plan to expand to about 280 across the country, as the manager of the Marine Corps working dog program Bill Childress comments, "Electronic equipment is great in the laboratory, but out on the battlefield, you can’t beat the dogs" (LAT). Five Marine dogs have reportedly died from roadside bombings, four from heat stroke, and one from friendly fire.

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