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The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Attackers storm British council in Kabul

Independence day As many as nine Taliban fighters staged a multi-phase attack on the British Council offices in Kabul Friday, killing at least 10 people and waging a gun battle for more than 10 hours before being subdued by Afghan and foreign forces (BBC, AP, Tel, NYT, AJE, Guardian, WSJ, Post, CNN). The attack, which ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Independence day

As many as nine Taliban fighters staged a multi-phase attack on the British Council offices in Kabul Friday, killing at least 10 people and waging a gun battle for more than 10 hours before being subdued by Afghan and foreign forces (BBC, AP, Tel, NYT, AJE, Guardian, WSJ, Post, CNN). The attack, which took place on the 92nd anniversary of Britain’s recognition of Afghanistan’s independence, began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a square in western Kabul, followed shortly after by a blast that breached the wall of the British Council’s compound and allowed the remaining fighters to enter (BBC, Reuters, AFP). Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told reporters that the British Council, which sponsors cultural and educational programs, was targeted, "because we want to remind the British that we won our independence from them before and we will do it again" (Guardian, Tel).

Also today, the Journal reveals that the U.S. military command in Kandahar in mid-July banned the transfer of detainees to Afghan custody, following what were considered credible allegations of abuse by the forces of provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Razziq (WSJ). The L.A. Times reports on concerns about Afghanistan’s economy following the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country (LAT). And TIME delves into the difficulties of counterinsurgency operations in southern Afghanistan’s Arghandab River Valley (TIME).

Bloodletting

At least 53 people were killed Friday when a teenaged suicide bomber attacked the main hall of a mosque near the town of Jamrud in Pakistan’s Khyber agency during Friday prayers (ET, AP, BBC, Reuters, Guardian). The Tribune reports that the blast came several days after tribal elders forced militants to leave the village where the bombing took place, and that the bomber shouted, "Who will throw me out of the area now?" before setting off his charges (ET). And in South Waziristan, local security officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed at least four militants (CNN, AFP, Dawn).

A wave of killings continues to sweep through Karachi, with as many as 50 people dead since Wednesday (Dawn, ET, CNN, Post). The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) convened a meeting Thursday to discuss the violence, as police have arrested more than 100 suspects accused of participating in the fighting (Dawn, ET, Dawn, Dawn). Saba Imtiaz has a must-read piece about the pain in one street in the Lyari neighborhood, which lost six sons on Thursday (ET). And two are dead in Karachi following a gun battle between the Barelvi Muslim Sunni Tehreek and the banned militant group Sipah-e-Sihaba Pakistan (SSP) (DT).

Pakistan’s army announced Thursday that it had concluded its offensive in Kurram agency, despite having only cleared Central Kurram of militants (Dawn, ET). In Baluchistan, 12 people were killed by gunmen in the provincial capital Quetta a day after four activists were found dead elsewhere in the province (Dawn, DT). Reports indicate that the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) has made a resurgence in Pakistan ten years after being banned, and is actively fundraising and reaching out to former members (ET). And Issam Ahmed interviews one of three hangmen in the province of Punjab, all of whom have been idle since the government placed a moratorium on executions in 2009 (CSM).

Pakistani police released a sketch Thursday of a man suspected to have taken part in the kidnapping last weekend of American aid expert Warren Weinstein, as U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton reportedly pressured her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar to ensure Weinstein’s safe release in a phone call the same day (Reuters, ABC, Dawn, ET). A U.S. State Department spokeswoman also said Thursday that the United States and Pakistan had resolved a dispute about travel restrictions placed on U.S. diplomats in Pakistan (Dawn). And Dawn reports that Pakistani activist Jhangir Akhtar is planning to go on hunger strike to protest government corruption and high military expenditures (Dawn).

Downward dog, behind bars

Since October 2009, inmates at the only prison for women in Karachi have been able to take yoga classes taught by volunteer Aisha Chapra (Reuters). Chapra was inspired by a similar program in an Indian prison, where violence has dropped since classes began, and inmates see their sentences reduced by 15 days for every three months spent taking yoga.

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Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.

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