Daily brief: Suicide bomber kills former Afghan president
Deadly blow Former anti-Soviet commander, Afghan president, and head of the country’s High Peace Council (HPC) Berhanuddin Rabbani was killed yesterday in his Kabul home by a suicide bomber who detonated explosives hidden in his turban when the two went to embrace (NYT, Post, LAT, BBC, AJE, Tel, WSJ, FT, ET, DT, CNN, Reuters). Rabbani’s ...
Former anti-Soviet commander, Afghan president, and head of the country’s High Peace Council (HPC) Berhanuddin Rabbani was killed yesterday in his Kabul home by a suicide bomber who detonated explosives hidden in his turban when the two went to embrace (NYT, Post, LAT, BBC, AJE, Tel, WSJ, FT, ET, DT, CNN, Reuters). Rabbani’s killer, a man identified as Esmatullah who first contacted former Taliban official and HPC member Rahmatullah Wahidyar, reportedly waited for days to meet with Rabbani, after telling officials that he bore a message from Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura (NYT, AP). The attack, which also wounded Wahidyar and senior HPC member Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, has not yet been claimed, though many in Afghanistan and the United States have been quick to suggest the involvement of the Taliban or Haqqani Network (NYT). Bonus read: Anand Gopal, "Rabbani’s death and Afghanistan’s future" (FP).
Hundreds of mourners turned out Wednesday in Kabul to remember Rabbani, a controversial figure and former head of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance who had nonetheless gained some credibility for his efforts in the past year to make peace (Tel, AFP, Reuters, NYT, AP, Independent, Tel). Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. President Barack Obama, and other world leaders condemned the attack, and promised to press forward with efforts to obtain a peace deal even as Rabbani’s former Northern Alliance partners warned against any arrangement with the Taliban, the prospects for which have been dealt a serious blow with Rabbani’s death (NYT, BBC, Reuters, LAT, CNN, Tel, Guardian).
Also today, a new Government Accountability Office report has found that between 2006 and 2010, the United States and other donors paid for 90 percent of Afghanistan’s public expenditures (Post). And the AP reports that serious combat wounds, including multiple amputations and genital injuries, are on the rise in Afghanistan, even as rates of combat deaths decline (AP).
In cold blood
The group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for two gruesome attacks that killed 29 Shi’a Muslims in Baluchistan Tuesday, one on a bus carrying pilgrims to Iran and another against rescuers attempting to reach the victims from the first incident (ET, BBC, McClatchy, NYT, AJE, AFP). Thousands gathered in Quetta to bury the victims and protest their killing, as parts of the city were shut down by striking mourners (AFP, AFP/ET). Meanwhile, a Pakistani court sentenced seven men to death in the lynching last year of two teenaged brothers (Dawn, ET, BBC, AP). And merchants in the Nishtarabad area of Peshawar shut down their shops Tuesday in protest after a bomb ripped through a crowded market there Monday, killing six (ET).
Senior U.S. officials have warned Pakistan in public and private in recent days to sever ties with the Haqqani Network, believed to be behind a series of attacks in Afghanistan (Post, AFP). Speaking publicly Tuesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said that he had told Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that Pakistan’s intelligence services needed to, "disconnect from Haqqani and from this proxy war that [the intelligence services are] fighting" (Reuters, ET).
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar denied suggestions Tuesday that Pakistan had been given an "ultimatum" on the group, while CIA chief David Petraeus met quietly with Pakistani intelligence head Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha in Washington (Dawn, ET). And Pakistan and the United States have reportedly reached a deal to cap the number of U.S. military personnel in Pakistan at between 100 and 150, with fewer than 10 U.S. Special Forces trainers allowed to remain (AP, Tel).
Four stories round out the day: A Pakistani Supreme Court panel "expressed displeasure" Wednesday at police reports on steps taken to confront violence in Karachi (ET). Human rights groups appealed to China’s government to halt the execution Wednesday of a Pakistani accused of smuggling drugs, and attacked the Pakistani government for not doing enough to seek a reprieve for the man (BBC). Dengue fever continues to spread in Lahore, where 7,100 people have reportedly fallen ill from the virus (Dawn). And Punjab province’s Law Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday promised "good news" soon in the kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer, the son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer (ET).
Pakistan’s first-ever break dancing competition opened this weekend in Karachi, as eight teams of five dancers each battled for the title spot (ET). The competition’s organizers whittled the teams down from nearly 200 people who auditioned for a spot in the contest in July.
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