The South Asia Channel

Law minister killed in suicide bombing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

Law minister killed  Israrullah Gandapur, the law minister in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was killed inside his home in Dera Ismail Khan on Wednesday when he greeted a suicide bomber posing as a guest on the first day of the Islamic "Festival of Sacrifice," Eid al-Adha (BBC, Dawn, ET, NYT, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, VOA). According to ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Law minister killed 

Israrullah Gandapur, the law minister in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was killed inside his home in Dera Ismail Khan on Wednesday when he greeted a suicide bomber posing as a guest on the first day of the Islamic "Festival of Sacrifice," Eid al-Adha (BBC, Dawn, ET, NYT, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, VOA). According to multiple reports, at least nine other people were killed in the attack and more than 30 were injured, including Gandapur’s older brother.  Ansar al Mujahideen, a group allied with the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for the deaths of men killed during a July jailbreak in the city (Reuters). 

Gandapur was elected as an independent candidate in the May 2013 parliamentary elections but later joined Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party.  His death is the most high-profile political assassination to occur in Pakistan this year.  Khan said he was "stunned" and "devastated" by the attack and implored the federal government to proceed with its plan to talk with the militants operating in the country, something that was agreed upon at the All Party Conference in September (BBC, ET).  On Thursday, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government declared three days of mourning for Gandapur and the other victims of the attack (Dawn).  

In a new report based on documents released by U.S. leaker Edward Snowden, the Washington Post revealed on Wednesday that the country’s National Security Agency (NSA) has been extensively involved in the CIA’s covert drone war in Pakistan (AFP, AJAM, AP, RFE/RL).  According to the Post, the targeted killing program has relied heavily on e-mail and telephone data collected by the NSA to track militants’ wherabouts.  In particular, the piece cites the case of Hassan Ghul, a senior al-Qaeda figure, who it says was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in October 2012; Washington has never publicly acknowledged killing Ghul.  The Post‘s report says the operation was made possible, in part, by an e-mail from Ghul’s wife that was captured by the NSA "surveillance blanket" that has been collecting militant communications in Pakistan. 

Going home

Nearly 155 Georgian soldiers left Afghanistan on Wednesday, six months after they arrived in Helmand province as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (Pajhwok).  Afghan Defense Minister Irakli Alasania greeted the troops at the local airport and thanked them for their "high professionalism" while in the country.  There are currently more than 1,500 Georgian soldiers serving in Helmand province, making it the largest non-NATO member combat troop commitment in Afghanistan.  

While reports emerged over the weekend that Washington and Kabul had agreed on a partial Bilateral Security Agreement, those involved in the negotiations noted that there were still disagreements over whether American soldiers remaining in the country after 2014 should have immunity from Afghan laws.  In an easy-to-understand "Explainer," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty breaks down why this issue is so complicated (RFE/RL). The article, written by Charles Recknagel, looks at how the immunity issue has become a sticking point in security talks, explains why countries demand immunity for their soldiers in the first place, and why host countries are uncomfortable granting it.  It also notes that immunity agreements between countries vary, and that the closeness of the relationship between the parties is one of the key components in determining whether or not immunity will be granted.  

Mohibullah Noori, a senior Afghan National Security Council official, survived an assassination attempt in Parwan province on Wednesday, just one day after Arsala Jamal, the governor of Logar province, was killed in a mosque by bomb hidden inside a Koran (Pajhwok).  According to provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Rahman Sarjang, unknown gunmen opened fire on Noori’s vehicle as he traveled through the Tothmandi area, but there were no casualties.  However, an intelligence official was gunned down in the area’s Jablus Siraj district, though it is unclear if the incidents are related. 

U.S. Army Capt. (ret.) Willian Swenson was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor on Tuesday for his actions in a lengthy battle against the Afghan Taliban in Kunar province’s Ganjal Valley in September 2009 (Pajhwok, TIME, VOA). The battle, which claimed the lives of four American soldiers, 10 Afghan soldiers, and one Afghan interpreter, was recorded by a video attached to another soldier’s helmet.  During the ceremony, President Obama described Swenson’s actions during the fight, which included watching over a severely wounded soldier, while exposing himself to enemy fire.  It was the second time in 50 years that two men had received the nation’s highest military award for their actions during the same fight – U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the battle in 2011 – and Swenson became the sixth living medal recipient.  

"God’s Eye View"

A new film by South Korean director Lee Jang-ho uses details from the case of South Korean Christians who were kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban in 2007 to explore religious convictions in South Korea, a country that sends out many of the world’s Christian missionaries (AP).  In 2007, 23 members of the Saemmul Presbyterian Church were taken hostage by the militants, and two were killed before they were released.  The film, "God’s Eye View," portrays Christian volunteers who are kidnapped by Muslim insurgents while they are on an evangelical mission in a fictional Islamic country, and their countrymen’s reactions to the incident.  Lee, however, was quick to note that while he used the Saemmul hostage-taking for inspiration, the film is a drama and is not about the event itself. 

— Bailey Cahall 

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