Daily Brief: Pakistan ups air defenses at Afghan border
Beefing up A Pakistani official said Friday on the condition of anonymity that Pakistan has enhanced its air defense system on the border with Afghanistan to give it the ability to respond immediately to air incursions and shoot down attacking aircraft (AFP, AP). The defense upgrade comes as Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations, Maj. Gen. ...
A Pakistani official said Friday on the condition of anonymity that Pakistan has enhanced its air defense system on the border with Afghanistan to give it the ability to respond immediately to air incursions and shoot down attacking aircraft (AFP, AP). The defense upgrade comes as Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations, Maj. Gen. Ishfaq Nadeem, reportedly described last month’s NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers as a "pre-planned conspiracy" from Pakistan’s "supposed allies" (Reuters, ET, Daily Times, CNN). However, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday that the country’s efforts to assist the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan are not "abandoned," despite Pakistan’s boycott of this week’s international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany (ET). Bonus read: Daud Khattak, "Calling Pakistan’s boycott bluff" (FP).
At least 32 NATO oil tankers and 10 containers were set ablaze in a rocket attack by a group of armed men in the suburbs of Quetta Thursday (AP, DT, ET). And early Friday morning, two oil tankers leaving a depot in Rawalpindi exploded, though officials are still unsure of the blasts’ cause (ET). In Karachi, a roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying Army Rangers personnel on Friday, killing three of them (AP, AFP/ET, Dawn). And another security agent was killed Friday in Kurram Agency when he stepped on a landmine while on patrol with his unit (ET). Police in Islamabad Thursday reportedly detained nine suspected members of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), while intelligence officers in Lahore say they foiled a plot to target three Shi’a Muslim processions with suicide attacks (Dawn, ET).
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who suffered a minor heart attack on Tuesday, could remain under medical observation in Dubai for over two weeks, according to one of the president’s aides (AFP). President Zardari himself reportedly told Pakistani news anchor Hamid Mir on Friday, "I’m fine and will return soon" (Reuters). The president’s trip to the Gulf has sparked rumors of a "soft coup" attempt by Pakistan’s military, which Interior Minister Rehman Malik dismissed on Friday (Dawn).
The Pakistani judicial commission investigating Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan has said that the findings of their investigation will be made public — if the government chooses to allow it — in a report that should be completed by the end of the month (AFP). And unnamed Pakistani officials on Thursday confirmed Saudi media reports that bin Laden’s two Saudi wives and eight of his children will be returned to Saudi Arabia soon, while his young Yemeni widow may be relocated to Qatar because Yemeni authorities have refused to admit her (Guardian).
Rally of rage
Over 2,000 Afghans rallied Friday, the last day of the Shi’a Muslim holiday Ashura, to mourn and denounce Pakistan for the sectarian attack that killed 56 Afghans in Kabul on Tuesday, which was claimed by the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) (AP,AFP). A Pakistani official spokesman called Thursday for an end to the "blame game," as Pakistan and Afghanistan traded barbs over the source of the deadly attack, while the Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman said he thought the bombing was the work of the Taliban (AFP, BBC). A suicide bomber in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar attacked worshippers leaving a mosque, killing six people, including a district police chief (AFP,AP). Bonus read: Anand Gopal, "From bad to worse" (FP).
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will reportedly consider accelerating the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan at a meeting of the National Security Council next week (Guardian, Tel, AP). Of the three options on the table at the meeting, one will be to cut British forces in 2013 from about 9,000 to 5,000, a much speedier drawdown than that advised by commanders of NATO’s International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).
A British movie fan club called "Secret Cinema," which hosts film screenings in unusual locations has chosen Kabul as its first expansion point outside of the United Kingdom (Reuters). The organizers, who do not tell their movie buff guests what movie they’ll be seeing until they arrive, have had to take some extra security precautions in Afghanistan, say they wanted to show people that Kabul is not entirely defined by violence, fear, and war.
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