The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Contradictions emerge in account of Karachi attack

Memorial service: A memorial for photojournalist Tim Hetherington will be held today in New York City at 4:00pm EST. Details here. New release: Thomas Ruttig describes the history of and prospects for the future of negotiations with the Taliban (NAF). The fog of war Pakistani police have released an account of this weekend’s brazen, 18-hour ...

RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

Memorial service: A memorial for photojournalist Tim Hetherington will be held today in New York City at 4:00pm EST. Details here.

New release: Thomas Ruttig describes the history of and prospects for the future of negotiations with the Taliban (NAF).

The fog of war

Pakistani police have released an account of this weekend’s brazen, 18-hour Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan attack on a naval air base in the southern port city of Karachi, stating that 10 to 12 men were involved, rather than up to six as Pakistani officials originally said (AP, NYT, DT, Independent, Guardian, FT, Dawn, Post, WSJ). Two of the attackers are now thought to have escaped, rather than being killed. Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik said yesterday that the attackers, who he stated dressed all in black and resembled "Star Wars characters," entered from a nearby residential district, and suggested without citing evidence that "external elements" may have been involved (Post).

Tribal clashes in Kurram continue into their third day, as the number killed rose to 15 (DT). The Mangal Bagh-led militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam, continues to clash with the Zakhakhel tribe in Khyber (DT). And The News reports that eight "mysterious helicopters" were spotted flying over Muzaffarabad last night, which military officials said were Pakistani aircraft on a night mission (The News). 

Regional outlets are rolling out more news about American diplomatic cables released by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, finding that the U.S. was concerned that Pakistan opposed it at the United Nations in 2006 (Dawn); in October 2008, U.S. officials encouraged Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari to turn down oil from Iran in exchange for an Iranian foothold in Pakistan (Dawn); Pakistani officials told the U.S. "we are not as advanced as you are" with respect to freedom of religion (Hindu); and detail more about the backroom politics related to the removal/restoration of Pakistani chief justice Iftikhar Chaudry (Dawn). Indian officials also reportedly urged the U.S. not to withdraw from Afghanistan following the Obama administration’s announcement of a drawdown in December 2009 (Hindu). ABC points out that the release of the cables is further straining the U.S.-Pakistan relationship (ABC).

The military garrison town of Abbottabad, where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden lived for years before he was killed on May 2, is both attempting to cope with and take advantage of its newfound notoriety (AP). Western counterterrorism officials say material recovered from the compound has not yet yielded evidence of imminent threats (Reuters).

In the hot seat

David Coleman Headley, the government’s lead witness in the trial of Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, who is accused of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, testified yesterday and said he believed the militant group that carried out the attack, Lashkar-e-Taiba, was operating "under the umbrella" of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI (NYT, Guardian, Times, Reuters, Tel, Independent, AJE, ABC, ToI, ProPublica, HT, AFP, AP, Globe and Mail). Headley, who pleaded guilty last year to being a co-conspirator in the Mumbai attacks, said he received guidance from at least two officers in the ISI. U.S. homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano is currently in India to pay respects to those killed in Mumbai and to discuss counterterrorism cooperation with the Indian government (AP). For more on the Rana trial, sign up for our sister newsletter, the Legal War on Terror (FP).

Ever-present threats

A roadside bombing this morning in Panjwai, Kandahar killed 12 and wounded 28, and a deputy intelligence chief escaped a Taliban assassination attempt in Kabul (Pajhwok, AP, Pajhwok, NYT). More details have been released about the suicide bombing in the Kabul hospital over the weekend: five men from Kabul have been arrested and confessed, and the ringleader was a Kabul University medical student (NYT). And Carlotta Gall files a dispatch from Zabul, the first area in Afghanistan where Afghan National Army forces operate independently (NYT). 

The Taliban, former ISI official Hamid Gul, and residents of North Waziristan continue to deny the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who Afghan intelligence said was killed in Pakistan earlier this week (NYT). Afghan intelligence also said they had learned the identity of Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid: Haji Ismail, a 42 year old who lives in the Chaman region of Pakistan.

A terror of a war

Pakistani officials say the three widows of Osama bin Laden are turning on each other in custody, with the two older women believing the youngest wife was being tracked or turned in the al-Qaeda leader (Sunday Times). The two older wives reportedly lived on the second floor of the Abbottabad compound, and the younger wife lived on the top floor; bin Laden is said to have alternated between them.

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