Daily brief: Scores dead in rare Afghan anti-Shi’a violence
Dark day Suicide attacks struck Shi’a Muslim shrines in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif Tuesday, killing at least 58 worshippers in a rare sectarian attack on Ashura, the holiest day of the year for Shi’a Muslims (NYT, BBC, WSJ, CNN, Post, AP, Reuters, Tel). Another bomb targeting a Shi’a procession in the southern city of Kandahar failed ...
Suicide attacks struck Shi’a Muslim shrines in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif Tuesday, killing at least 58 worshippers in a rare sectarian attack on Ashura, the holiest day of the year for Shi’a Muslims (NYT, BBC, WSJ, CNN, Post, AP, Reuters, Tel). Another bomb targeting a Shi’a procession in the southern city of Kandahar failed to cause casualties. The bombings drew sharp condemnation from Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, who said the attacks were a, "wild and inhumane attack by our enemies, who are trying to blame us and trying to divide Afghans by doing such attacks on Muslims" (NYT, AP). Many analysts fear the attacks may herald the start of more Iraq- or Pakistan-style sectarian violence in Afghanistan (Guardian).
Monday’s Bonn conference on Afghanistan ended with promises not to "desert" Afghanistan from the United States and other key countries — in return for progress in promoting good governance, reforming the country’s politics and judiciary, and fighting corruption (Post, AP, Reuters, BBC, Guardian, WSJ, Tel, AFP). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Afghanistan must show donor nations that it can support continued flows of aid after international forces withdraw in 2014, even as civilian aid groups fear a steep decline in assistance following the withdrawal (Reuters, NYT). And the absence of two key players, the Taliban and Pakistan, overshadowed the conference, while Karzai said Tuesday that Pakistan will still play a "very important" role in negotiations for peace in Afghanistan (Reuters, CNN, ET). Bonus read: Bonn, 10 Years On – An FP Roundtable (FP).
Four children were killed Monday in Kandahar by a roadside bomb, while an unidentified number of Afghan policemen were killed fighting militants in the province of Badakhshan (AFP, AP). Meanwhile, seven Pakistanis kidnapped last week in Logar province were freed unharmed Monday (AFP).
Finally, the Journal looks at the impact of Pakistan’s cutoff of land routes for supplies into Afghanistan, which in some cases is driving U.S. fuel costs up to $400 per gallon (WSJ). And Afghanistan is now taking bids on massive gold and copper mines in several provinces, including Badakhshan, Ghazni and Herat, as well as another area that traverses both Balkh and Sar-e-Pul (AP).
Pushin’ forward, back
Some Pakistani troops manning coordination centers for border operations with U.S. forces have been temporarily recalled for "consultations," prompting concern from American officials about a further deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan relations (AP, ET). The decision comes after Pakistan recalled a number of ambassadors from key posts in order to discuss shifts in Pakistan’s foreign policy following a NATO airstrike last month in Mohmand that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers (ET, The News). In an interview Monday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said "we really want to have good relations with the U.S. based on mutual respect and clearly defined parameters" and confirmed Pakistan’s commitment to promoting reconciliation in Afghanistan (AP, DT, Dawn). Bonus read: Shuja Nawaz, "Stumbling over Pakistan" (FP).
Security is tight across Pakistan for the Ashura holy day, after Shi’a-Sunni clashes injured eight people in Jhang Sunday, and two explosions in Karachi wounded four people (ET, ET, ET, Dawn, ET). In Orakzai, unknown militants fired on an Ashura procession, but failed to cause casualties (ET). Dawn reports on the failures of Pakistani police to bring charges against suspects in Ashura bombings in 2009 and anti-Shi’a plots in 2008 (Dawn). And two people were killed Monday when unknown assailants fired a pair of rocket-propelled grenades at a shop in the northwestern town of Kohat (Reuters).
The Tribune reports, citing the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, that Osama bin Laden’s surviving family will be leaving Pakistan for Saudi Arabia, "within the next two days" though similar reports have surfaced in the past (ET).
And Pakistani gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai, who became a staunch voice for women’s rights in Pakistan following her brutal assault in 2002, gave birth to a healthy baby boy Sunday (BBC). Mai, who married a police constable in 2009 and has also established a school for women, was assaulted as punishment when her then-12-year-old brother was accused of adultery.
The Tribune interviews several Lahore artisans, including a Sunni Muslim, who create crafts and devotional installations associated with Ashura (ET). As the Sunni craftsman, Mukhtar Ahmad, told the paper, "I make the installations as a way of expressing my reverence."
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