At least 81 Pakistani Christians killed in twin attacks on historic church
Deadly church attack At least 81 people were killed and more than 130 were wounded in Peshawar on Sunday when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives inside the All Saints’ Church, one of the oldest places of Christian worship in northwest Pakistan (AFP, AP, BBC, Bloomberg, Dawn, NYT, Pajhwok, Post, RFE/RL, VOA). According to multiple ...
Deadly church attack
At least 81 people were killed and more than 130 were wounded in Peshawar on Sunday when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives inside the All Saints’ Church, one of the oldest places of Christian worship in northwest Pakistan (AFP, AP, BBC, Bloomberg, Dawn, NYT, Pajhwok, Post, RFE/RL, VOA). According to multiple reports, the attack occurred as approximately 600 worshippers left the church following morning services. The Pakistani Jundullah, a group associated with the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the bombings and said they would continue to target non-Muslims in the country until the U.S. halts its drone strikes in the tribal regions (USA Today). The Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility for the attack.
Dozens of angry Pakistani Christians blocked roads around the country on Monday to protest the bombings, believed to be the deadliest attack on Pakistan’s Christian minority, and to demand government protection (AP, Dawn, ET, RFE/RL). Nisar Gill, a Christian leader, said that missionary schools around the country would be closed for three days as the community mourned, and government officials in Khyber Pakhtunkwha province announced that they would observe a three-day mourning period to express their solidarity with those affected by the attacks (ET). Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, speaking to reporters in London, condemned the attack and said that the government is "unable to move forward" with its planned dialogue with the different insurgent groups operating inside the country in this environment.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former deputy commander with the Afghan Taliban, was released on Saturday in an effort to "further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process," Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said (AFP, BBC, LAT, NYT, Post, VOA). Baradar’s release, which has been expected for weeks, elicited mixed reactions as Taliban observers aren’t entirely sure if Baradar will help restart the reconciliation process, or if he will rejoin the militant group in their fight against coalition troops (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, declined to comment on Baradar’s release, saying: "I cannot say anything until I receive something from our superiors. I’ve been trying to get a reaction all day." Bonus read: "Interview: Taliban Chronicler Fergusson On Mullah Baradar’s Release And Afghan Peace" (RFE/RL).
While Baradar was released, it appeared on Sunday that he had not been released to Afghan custody. Attaullah Ludin, the deputy head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, asked Pakistani authorities for Baradar’s address so the group could contact him in relation to the government’s peace efforts (Pajhwok). According to Reuters, which cites an anonymous government source, Baradar "is in a safe house in Karachi…Everything will be decided between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States" (Reuters).
At least six people were killed and three were wounded in North Waziristan on Sunday by a U.S. drone strike that targeted a suspected militant compound (AFP). According to Pakistani security officials, the attack occurred in Shawal, a town 55 kilometers west of Miran Shah. The officials told Agence France Presse that the identities of those killed were not yet clear.
Three coalition soldiers were killed on Saturday by a man in an Afghan National Army uniform, the first insider attack since July and the seventh of the year (AFP, AP, BBC, NYT, Reuters, VOA). According to Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the deputy spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the attack occurred in Paktia province. An anonymous Afghan official said the incident took place outside Forward Operation Base Lightning and that the victims were American special forces, though NATO has yet to confirm the nationalities of those who died.
In Kandahar province on Sunday, two Romanian soldiers died after stepping on an improvised explosive device during a patrol in the eastern Afghan province (AP, Pajhwok). According to Mircea Dusa, the Romanian defense minister, the men were evacuated to a local hospital where they died from their injuries. Romania has 1,029 troops serving in Afghanistan, 22 of whom have been killed.
Militants shot and killed Abdul Hussian, the intelligence chief for Kunduz province’s Chahar Dara district, on Monday as he was riding his motorcycle in Kunduz City (AP, Pajhwok). No one has claimed responsibility for the attack and Ghulam Mohayuddin, a local police chief, said that an investigation is underway.
At least 16 Afghan policemen were killed in Kandahar province over the weekend in two separate incidents, according to Afghan officials (Pajhwok). Eleven officers were killed in the Shurabak district when heavily armed militants stormed a border security post, and in the Zherai district, five Afghan Local Police (ALP) officers were shot and killed by two fellow ALP members. According to an anonymous security official, the two attackers had recently joined the ALP and successfully fled the scene.
Bismillah Sher became Afghanistan’s first presidential candidate on Sunday when he filed his nomination papers with the Independent Election Commission (Pajhwok). Sher is the leader of the Hezb-i-Wafaq-i-Milli party, and is one of 48 people who have obtained information packets on registering for the election. Candidates have until October 6 to file their nomination papers for next April’s elections.
Over 200 Twitter and Facebook users attended Afghanistan’s first social media summit on Sunday to explore how the Internet is changing the traditional society (AFP). Social media has taken off in Afghanistan and as next year’s election approaches, some candidates have taken to Twitter, including former finance minister Ashraf Ghani who has almost 4,000 followers. The micro-blogging site also features accounts for Afghanistan’s interior minister, several provincial spokesmen, and even the Taliban, who often announce attacks via tweet.
— Bailey Cahall and David Sterman
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