Six Afghan children among those killed in botched attack on Indian consulate
Bonus read: "What’s behind timing of terror threat," Peter Bergen and Bailey Cahall (CNN). Weekend violence At least nine Afghan civilians were killed and 24 were injured in Jalalabad on Saturday when three militants attempting to attack the Indian consulate were stopped at a checkpoint and opened fire on a crowded street before detonating a ...
Bonus read: "What’s behind timing of terror threat," Peter Bergen and Bailey Cahall (CNN).
At least nine Afghan civilians were killed and 24 were injured in Jalalabad on Saturday when three militants attempting to attack the Indian consulate were stopped at a checkpoint and opened fire on a crowded street before detonating a car bomb that ripped through a nearby mosque (AFP, AP, BBC, NYT, Post, VOA). Six of the victims were children who had been studying the Koran inside the mosque. India’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that none of the consulate’s staff members had been killed, and there appeared to be no link between the attack and the al-Qaeda threat alert that shuttered dozens of U.S. embassies over the weekend. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, denied involvement in the attack, causing suspicion to instead fall upon several Pakistan-based terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
An additional 16 people were wounded in Jalalabad on Sunday when a remote-controlled bomb was detonated near the car of Abdul Qayoom, a state prosecutor (VOA). There have been no immediate claims of responsibility for either attack. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and several religious leaders released statements on Sunday that declared such violence against civilians as un-Islamic and illegitimate (Pajhwok, Pajhwok).
The target and suspected perpetrators of Saturday’s attack have raised concerns of a growing proxy war in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan, two rivals that have long vied for power and influence in the South Asian country (AP, Reuters). In response to the attack, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said it "once again highlighted that the main threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability stems from…the terror machine that continues to operate from beyond its borders" – a veiled reference to the different terror groups that have found safe havens in Pakistan. The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a similar statement (Pajhwok). Many Afghans are concerned that the withdrawal of coalition forces at the end of next will lead to another round of bloody interference by foreign powers.
Heavy rains swept across eastern Afghanistan over the weekend and killed at least 58 people in four different provinces, according to spokesmen in the Kabul, Khost, Nangarhar, and Nuristan provinces (AP, Pajhwok). An estimated 30 people are still missing. Ghulam Farooq, an official with the Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority, cautioned that those numbers are based a preliminary reports and could rise as rescue efforts across the affected areas begin. Monsoon floods also hit Pakistan over the weekend, killing at least 80 people in Balochistan and nearly 40 in Karachi (BBC, ET, VOA).
One of the many challenges facing the United States as its troops withdraw from Afghanistan is figuring out what to do with prison nicknamed "the second Guantanamo." According to the Washington Post, more than 67 non-Afghan inmates are being held at the Bagram airbase, including several "hardened" al-Qaeda fighters, though none of them have ever been formally tried (Post). Similar to the prisoners at the Cuban detention facility, many were cleared for release by informal military review boards, but most were never freed. Since the Bagram detention center is on Afghan soil, U.S. forces are obliged to shutter it when their combat role ends in December 2014. Keeping it open would require approval from President Karzai, but he has resisted keeping American-run detention facilities in the country.
According to a report by Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper, one of the many things discussed during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Islamabad last week was potentially moving the Taliban’s political office from Qatar to some other country in an effort to restart the Afghan reconciliation process (ET). Pakistani officials told reporters that neither Washington nor Islamabad are hopeful about reviving the peace talks and considering other options that might break the deadlock. The officials added that the idea had been proposed to the Afghan government but that no final decision had been made. Sartaj Aziz, Kerry’s Pakistani counterpart, said that the reconciliation process was what was important, not the location, and that Pakistan would facilitate the talks, regardless of where they were held.
Despite Kerry’s statement last week that the United States would be ending drone strikes in Pakistan "very, very soon," the New York Times reported on Friday that very little has changed since President Obama’s counterterrorism speech at the National Defense University in May (NYT). According to the Times, there were more drone strikes in Pakistan last month than in any month since January, and many elements of the CIA’s targeted killing campaign remain in place. Analysts suggest the discrepancies come from the fact that the administration is trying to address concerns over the program in Pakistan, while maintaining a crucial tool in its fight against terrorists.
Interpol issued a global alert on Saturday that asked member countries to help it track hundreds of terrorism suspects who escaped from jails in Libya, Iraq, and Pakistan last weekend in a spate of jailbreaks organized by militant groups (NYT). It also requested assistance in determining whether the operations were coordinated or linked since the tactics used to free the prisoners were similar and the attacks occurred within days of each other. It was unclear if the Interpol alert was linked to the State Department’s weekend closure of several embassies in the Middle East and North Africa, though it did cite the concern over impending terrorist threats and plots, as well as this week’s 15th anniversary of the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people. Bonus read: "Jihadists focus on prison breaks," Peter Bergen and Bailey Cahall (CNN).
A red alert was issued for Islamabad on Sunday after Pakistani officials received intelligence reports that warned of a likely attack on a high-value target (CNN). While no further information was given, key military installations were under tight security and military helicopters patrolled the city’s skies as Air Force and Navy commandos searched for suspected militants.
Fourteen people were injured near the Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab province on Monday when a bomb exploded inside an economy class cabin on the Karachi-bound Shalimar Express train (Dawn, ET). Only two cabins were damaged and the train, which had departed from Lahore, remained on the tracks, causing officials to believe it was a low-intensity explosive. There have been no immediate claims of responsibility.
And the Oscar goes to…
For the first time in half a century, Pakistan will submit an entry for the Oscar’s foreign-language category, though the review committee has not yet chosen the film (Variety). According to Variety magazine, each country is allowed one submission and can decide how that film is chosen. Pakistan’s independent committee has until October 1 to determine which of the 21 films released in 2013 should make the cut.
— Bailey Cahall
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