Daily brief: suicide blasts kill up to 24 in Afghanistan

Complex attacks A suicide attack at the four-star Safi Landmark hotel in Kabul earlier this morning left up to three dead, two days after a complex suicide attack involving at least four bombers, several car bombs, and rocket propelled grenades killed up to 21 people in a strike targeting Kandahar’s main police headquarters (AP, Reuters, ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Complex attacks

A suicide attack at the four-star Safi Landmark hotel in Kabul earlier this morning left up to three dead, two days after a complex suicide attack involving at least four bombers, several car bombs, and rocket propelled grenades killed up to 21 people in a strike targeting Kandahar's main police headquarters (AP, Reuters, Pajhwok; AFP, Post, NYT, Pajhwok, AJE, LAT, AP, Reuters). The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Kandahar attack, the fifth reported in the province this year. The Sunday Times interviewed a 15 year old Afghan boy who has placed IEDs for the Taliban and attended a madrassa in Ghazni, where he was lectured for five months on the "morally corrupting influence of foreigners" (Times).

Following the collapse of Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt last week, the Taliban issued a statement warning that the Kabul government is next in line to be toppled by its people (AFP). Ten employees of Afghanistan's troubled Kabul Bank and the central bank have been arrested on accusations related to a fake check scheme that netted up to $1.5 million, some of which has reportedly been recovered (AP, Pajhwok).

Complex attacks

A suicide attack at the four-star Safi Landmark hotel in Kabul earlier this morning left up to three dead, two days after a complex suicide attack involving at least four bombers, several car bombs, and rocket propelled grenades killed up to 21 people in a strike targeting Kandahar’s main police headquarters (AP, Reuters, Pajhwok; AFP, Post, NYT, Pajhwok, AJE, LAT, AP, Reuters). The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Kandahar attack, the fifth reported in the province this year. The Sunday Times interviewed a 15 year old Afghan boy who has placed IEDs for the Taliban and attended a madrassa in Ghazni, where he was lectured for five months on the "morally corrupting influence of foreigners" (Times).

Following the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt last week, the Taliban issued a statement warning that the Kabul government is next in line to be toppled by its people (AFP). Ten employees of Afghanistan’s troubled Kabul Bank and the central bank have been arrested on accusations related to a fake check scheme that netted up to $1.5 million, some of which has reportedly been recovered (AP, Pajhwok).

And although 32 nations have pledged support, the coalition in Afghanistan reportedly needs 740 trainers to work with Afghan security forces to prepare them for transition (AP). The Post has a must-read describing some struggling conditions of higher education in Afghanistan, where universities are forbidden from charging tuition or having endowments, which leaves public schools dependent on the Afghan government and international donors (Post).

Law and order

Mumtaz Qadri, the Pakistani police commando who confessed to gunning down Punjab government Salmaan Taseer last month, was formally charged with murder and terrorism acts earlier today, and claimed that what he did was not illegal (AP, AFP, BBC, ET, CNN, Geo). Around 50 of Qadri’s supporters reportedly offered Valentine’s Day flowers and messages outside the Rawalpindi jail where the hearing was held; he is due back in court on February 26.

After the U.S. postponed a trilateral meeting with American, Afghan, and Pakistani leaders scheduled for February 23-34 in Washington "in light of the political changes in Pakistan," Pakistan’s new foreign secretary Salman Bashir said that any U.S. pressure on Islamabad to release Raymond Davis, the American diplomat who shot two Pakistani men he said were attempting to rob him in Lahore last month, would be "counterproductive," and another Pakistani official commented that the rescheduling is "a setback to the Afghan reconciliation process" (Reuters, AFP, Reuters, AP, NYT, AP, Post, WSJ, ET, FT). The Post has details about the Punjab police report about the Davis case, which is serving as "an official record of how deeply Pakistani officials are digging in their heels" (Post). A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan demanded that Davis be hanged or "otherwise hand[ed] over to us" (AFP). 

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf in connection with accusations over his alleged involvement in the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, with prosecutors claiming he knew about the TTP’s plan to try and kill her (AJE, AP, AFP, The News, Daily Times, Tel, Dawn). A spokesman for Musharraf, who has been ordered to appear in court on February 19, called the accusations "absurd and ridiculous."

Baluchistan under fire

Gas pipelines continue to be targeted in Baluchistan, where as many as ten pipelines have been attacked in recent days (The News, ET, Daily Times, Dawn, ET). Protesters have blocked the highway between the Baluch capital Quetta and the border checkpoint Chaman, demanding that the government resolve the province’s power and gas crisis.

Reuters considers the impact of suspected U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani public opinion in the tribal regions (Reuters). It has been more than three weeks since the last strikes were reported (NAF).

And a recent Gallup poll finds that American opinions of Pakistan and Afghanistan have sunk to new lows, with 82 percent of those surveyed having an unfavorable view of Afghanistan and 76 percent viewing Pakistan unfavorably (AFP). In 2005, more than 40 percent of respondents had positive views of both countries.

Operation Propaganda Wars

The Pakistani Army is producing a series of "slickly produced, action packed films" showing reenactments of military operations in northwest Pakistan in order to drum up public support for the campaigns (AP). The films, one of which is titled "Glorious Resolve," air on public and private stations, and the ratings are not yet in.

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