The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Pakistani journalist found tortured, murdered

Dark day Pakistani police yesterday found the body of kidnapped journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad in a canal in the Mandi Bahauddir area of Gujarat district southeast of the capital Islamabad, from where Shahzad had been kidnapped on his way to a TV interview nearly two days before (NYT, ET, Tel, LAT, BBC, Reuters, Daily Times, ...


Dark day

Pakistani police yesterday found the body of kidnapped journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad in a canal in the Mandi Bahauddir area of Gujarat district southeast of the capital Islamabad, from where Shahzad had been kidnapped on his way to a TV interview nearly two days before (NYT, ET, Tel, LAT, BBC, Reuters, Daily Times, WSJ, AJE, AFP). Shahzad’s body reportedly bore extensive signs of torture, including broken ribs and wounds to his face, abdomen and internal organs (AFP). He was buried today in Karachi, his hometown (AP).

Suspicion for the kidnapping and killing has fallen on Pakistan’s intelligence services, who according to Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan had threatened Shahzad as recently as last October (PostReuters, The News). Hasan told reporters Monday that he had been able to confirm through anonymous sources that Shahzad was in the custody of the intelligence services (NYT). Shahzad wrote a story Friday for the Asia Times alleging that al-Qaeda was responsible for last week’s attack on a Pakistani naval base after Shahzad said navy officials refused to release sailors arrested for their alleged links to al-Qaeda. Last year the Committee to Protect Journalists declared Pakistan the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, after at least eight were killed while reporting from the country (AP). Bonus read: Huma Imtiaz, "Angels of death" (FP).

Pakistani naval officials testified before a Senate committee behind closed doors yesterday about the attack on the Mehran naval base, admitting a "security failure" that allowed the attackers onto the base (Daily Times, ET). Pakistani naval chief Adm. Noman Bashir reportedly refused to appear before the committee meeting (Dawn).

And the Journal reports that Pakistan’s army may be taking preparatory steps towards an incursion into North Waziristan, including possibly stepped-up military operations in neighboring Kurram agency (WSJ). However, Dawn reports that any move into North Waziristan will be "limited," a senior Pakistani officer warned that there were no "imminent" plans for an offensive in the agency, and Reuters notes that an eventual operation would be due in large part to U.S. pressure (Dawn, AP, Reuters).

Investigations about investigations

Pakistan’s government yesterday announced the creation of a five-member commission to investigate how al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was able to live undisturbed in the cantonment city of Abbottabad until the May 2 raid that resulted in his death, in addition to investigating how U.S. Navy SEALs were able to enter and depart Pakistan without facing opposition from the country’s armed forces (AP,  ET, AFP, Daily Times, Dawn, Geo). The commission will be headed by Supreme Court justice Javed Iqbal, and will include a retired army officer, a former police commander, a former ambassador to the United States and a former Supreme Court justice.

The Journal’s Zahid Hussain has a must-read story on bin Laden’s couriers, two Kuwaiti-born brothers reportedly named Abrar and Ibrahim Said Ahmad with roots in the small northwestern Pakistan town of Martung (WSJ). The AP talks to a pediatrician in Abbottabad who unknowingly may have examined some of bin Laden’s children (AP). And the Los Angeles Times reports on the widespread skepticism in Pakistan that bin Laden was killed in the U.S. operation (LAT).

Confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley finished testifying yesterday in the trial of Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of helping Headley as the latter scouted targets for the 2008 Mumbai attack (AP, Chicago Tribune). Headley testified that senior officials in Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) were not aware of the attack planning (AFP, Reuters). Headley also told the court that after his arrest he tried to coax Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) figure Sajid Mir out of Pakistan so that he could be arrested, that he had a history of lying to law enforcement, and that al-Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri plotted to kill the CEO of Lockheed Martin in retaliation for drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas (Post, WSJ, The Hindu, The Hindu).

At least seven members of Pakistan’s security forces were killed today when up to 200 fighters reportedly dressed in military uniforms crossed the Afghan border to attack a police outpost in Upper Dir, before fleeing (BBC, AJE, Reuters, AP). Two Russian diplomats arrived in Quetta yesterday to pick up the bodies of five people, possibly Chechens or Russians, killed at a police checkpoint May 17 under murky circumstances (ET, ET). A roadside bomb just outside of Quetta today killed two paramilitary Frontier Corps members (Daily Times). And unidentified militants destroyed two NATO fuel trucks yesterday in Baluchistan (Pajhwok).

Weighty words

Afghan president Hamid Karzai said yesterday that he will meet with NATO officials to discuss what steps the Afghan government will take in the event of civilian casualties from NATO operations, after he threatened "unilateral action" unless international forces stopped bombing Afghan houses, in the wake of a bombing raid that killed at least nine civilians in Helmand province this past weekend (NYT, Reuters, Tel). The use of airstrikes and night raids has shot up in the last year (Post).  

The AP reports that the United States is "trolling" for insurgents to negotiate with in Afghanistan, and is placing a special emphasis on trying to open contact with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar (AP). NATO and Afghan forces say they have arrested a purported Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan member allegedly involved in Monday’s bombing in the northern Afghanistan province of Takhar which killed northern Afghanistan’s police commander and wounded the commander of NATO forces in the region (AP). An Afghan National Army (ANA) officer told the AP yesterday that an Afghan soldier who shot dead his Australian "mentor" was likely an insurgent who had infiltrated the ANA, part of a wave of attacks causing growing concern amongst international forces (AP, Guardian). And a spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the Taliban were planning to target areas transitioning soon to Afghan security control (Reuters). 

Finally, Afghanistan’s defense minister met with his Indian counterpart today, likely in order to discuss bilateral cooperation and the training of Afghan security forces, according to a statement from India’s ministry of defense (AP).   

Dead men tell no tales 

Pakistan has placed deceased former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Baitullah Mehsud on its "most wanted" list, despite official acknowledgements of his death in a U.S. missile strike in 2009 (Dawn). An official said Mehsud would not be formally considered dead until a death certificate was shown to the police.

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