Daily brief: Al-Qaeda claims to hold kidnapped American captive
Nightmare scenario In a video released on jihadist Internet forums yesterday, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed that the organization had kidnapped American aid worker Warren Weinstein, who was taken by armed men from his home in Lahore in August (NYT, AP,Post, BBC, Dawn, Tel, LAT, Reuters, ABC, CNN). Zawahiri said, "I tell the captive soldiers of al-Qaida and the Taliban and our female ...
In a video released on jihadist Internet forums yesterday, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed that the organization had kidnapped American aid worker Warren Weinstein, who was taken by armed men from his home in Lahore in August (NYT, AP,Post, BBC, Dawn, Tel, LAT, Reuters, ABC, CNN). Zawahiri said, "I tell the captive soldiers of al-Qaida and the Taliban and our female prisoners held in the prisons of the crusaders and their collaborators, we have not forgotten you and in order to free you we have taken hostage the Jewish American Warren Weinstein" (Guardian) In exchange for Weinstein’s release, Zawahiri demanded the lifting of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip, a halt to U.S. bombing of al-Qaeda and allied groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somali, Yemen, and Gaza, the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and the release of al-Qaeda prisoners; he also confirmed the death of key al-Qaeda figure Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was reported killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.
No end in sight
Protests continued across Pakistan against the U.S. airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two border posts in Mohmand last Saturday, as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter expressed his condolences to the victims’ families, and Pakistan’s Senate unanimously passed a measure condemning the strike (Dawn, ET, AP, ET,CBS/AP, LAT). Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has reportedly circulated an order allowing military units to engage NATO and U.S. forces without seeking permission if they stray into Pakistani territory, as military officials blamed a "communication breakdown" for the country’s air force not intervening during the attack (ET, Reuters, Dawn, AP). The Journal, meanwhile, reports that Pakistani military officials in a joint U.S.-Pakistani coordination center approved the strike before it took place, telling their American counterparts that there were no Pakistani troops in the area, according to U.S. officials (WSJ, ET).
Indian police have arrested six suspected members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) allegedly responsible for several high-profile bombings last year, including a Pakistani said to be linked to the group Jaish-e-Muhammad (AP, ET, BBC). Authorities suggested that the Pakistani was sent by IM’s leaders, who are believed to be in the Pakistani city of Karachi (The National). Meanwhile, police in Karachi announced that they had disrupted a terrorist attack Thursday and arrested four suspected anti-Shi’a militants (Dawn). The Telegraph reports that according to British peer Lord Nazir Ahmed, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik telephoned Ahmed to ask him to keep a key witness in the killing of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Imran Farooq in London last year from speaking to police (Tel). And the BBC highlights the rise of kidnappings and other crimes against British citizens of Pakistani descent in Pakistan (BBC).
Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, the conduit for a memo he says was written by former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani offering increased Pakistani cooperation against terrorists and the removal of Pakistan’s military leadership, said Friday that he is ready to face a Pakistani Supreme Court inquiry into the incident (Dawn). A leader of the militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Syed Salahuddin, said that Ijaz met with him twice after the end of a ceasefire in Kashmir in 2000 to urge HuM to put down their arms, but that Salahuddin refused (Dawn). Salahuddin said that Ijaz was accompanied once by a Pakistani intelligence officer and once by Ijaz’s mother, and that Ijaz told him he was speaking at "the behest of [then-U.S. President] Bill Clinton’s administration." And the Post’s Richard Leiby has a lengthy profile of Ijaz today (Post). Bonus read: Peter Bergen and Andrew Lebovich, "What’s behind the furor in Pakistan?" (FP). Finally today, Pakistani cricket organizers have set up an anti-corruption body in the wake of the conviction of three top former players last month on charges of fixing matches (AFP).
A powerful suicide car bomb detonated in front of a NATO base in Afghanistan’s Logar province Friday morning, killing at least three people and wounding as many as 70 (NYT,BBC, AFP). And the Guardian reports that Afghanistan’s army will face a budget shortfall of $4 billion after 2014, when international forces are expected to depart, leaving enough money for a force of 220,000, instead of the planned 352,000 (Guardian).
The Guardian has a must-read by Jon Boone today on what Afghan officials describe as a secret effort to offer to move the families of Taliban leaders living in Pakistan to Afghanistan, in order to accelerate peace talks (Guardian). The officials and observers allege that Pakistan’s intelligence services pressure Afghan Taliban leaders not to engage in unapproved peace talks by holding their families in Pakistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered the release of imprisoned rape victim Gulnaz, with his office announcing that she had agreed to marry her attacker, but that the marriage was not a condition for release (CNN, AP, Guardian, Tel). And the Times looks at the cultural and societal strictures placed on women in Afghanistan (NYT).
And leaders in the town of Baffa are protesting a Pakistani army proposal to move army stables to the town from the city of Abbottabad (Dawn). Baffa residents say the move will disrupt large tracts of agricultural land.
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