Drone Strike Killed American Hostage; AAP Leader Apologizes for Continuing Speech After Indian Farmer’s Suicide; EU Extends Afghan Police Mission
Pakistan Bonus Read: “Could Warren Weinstein Have Been Saved,” Peter Bergen (CNN) Drone strike killed American hostage, American AQ leaders killed On Thursday, the White House released a statement that U.S. counterterrorism missions in Pakistan had killed two innocent hostages held by al Qaeda, Warren Weinstein, an American, and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto (NYT, WSJ, ...
Bonus Read: “Could Warren Weinstein Have Been Saved,” Peter Bergen (CNN)
Drone strike killed American hostage, American AQ leaders killed
On Thursday, the White House released a statement that U.S. counterterrorism missions in Pakistan had killed two innocent hostages held by al Qaeda, Warren Weinstein, an American, and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto (NYT, WSJ, CNN, RFE/RL). The two men were killed in a drone strike that targeted an al Qaeda compound on January 15. The drones had been monitoring four men, but when bodies were pulled from the rubble, they found six bodies – a sign of trouble. The January 15 strike that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto was a signature strike, meaning it did not have a specific individual target but targeted people showing a pattern of activity consistent with militant activity. The White House also announced that counterterrorism operations had killed Adam Gadahn, an American al Qaeda leader involved in its propaganda activities, and Ahmed Farouq, another American al Qaeda leader. Farouq was reportedly killed in the same strike as Weinstein and Lo Porto while Gadahn was killed in a separate operation. According to the White House neither Gadahn nor Farouq were specifically targeted. Bonus Read: “Warren Weinstein’s Devotion to Pakistan Was Part of a Lifetime of Service,” Michael D. Shear (NYT).
Italy arrests terror group targeting Pakistan
On Friday, Italian police issued 18 arrest warrants targeting a network allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Pakistan (WSJ, Bloomberg, RFE/RL, ET). The group was based in Olbia on the island of Sardinia but had members in other parts of Italy as well and was in contact with top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Mario Carta, an officer with Italy’s security police stated: “We believe that this group was involved in the organization of many bloody attacks in Pakistan, including the 2009 explosion in a market in Peshawar.” Two of the suspects are also believed to have been part of Osama bin Laden’s security detail. Only nine of the warrants have been executed, the remaining suspects are at large.
MQM wins in NA-246 election
According to local media reports on Friday, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has won the election in the national assembly election in Karachi’s NA-246 district (ET, Dawn). Kanwar Naveed of the MQM reportedly received 93,122 votes while Imran Ismail of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party (PTI) received 22,000 and Rashid Naseem of the Jamaat-e-Islami received 9,000 votes. The seat had previously been held by MQM leader Nabeel Gabol, who had resigned. Earlier in the week PTI Chairman Imran Khan had spoken at a rally in Karachi in an effort to boost the PTI’s chances in the district.
— David Sterman
AAP leader apologizes for continuing speech after farmer’s suicide
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of New Delhi and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, apologized for continuing his speech after a farmer committed suicide, according to news reports on Friday (Indian Express, Times of India, Livemint). AAP had organized a rally on Wednesday to protest the land acquisition bill introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Gajendra Singh, a farmer from the northern state of Rajasthan, used a towel to hang himself off a tree while Kejriwal was addressing thousands of people. Kejriwal said: “I think I was wrong, I should not have gone ahead with my speech and called off the rally. I apologise if I hurt anyone” (BBC). Politicians have been trading blame over his death, with parties including the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holding AAP responsible for the farmer’s death. Opposition parties have united against the Modi government to oppose the land acquisition bill, stating that the bill will force farmers and the poor to lose their lands. In 2014, the government used an executive order to amend the land acquisition bill and facilitate the buying of land for industrial projects.
India rebuts Pakistan’s claims at the Asian African Conference
Pakistan raised the Kashmir issue at the Bandung Conference (a conference between Asian and African countries) in Jakarta on Thursday, saying it was “tragic and unacceptable” that the right to self-determination was not fulfilled in Kashmir (Economic Times). Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz said: “It is tragic and unacceptable that 60 years after committing to those overarching principles people from Palestine to Kashmir are still awaiting fulfilment of their inalienable right to self-determination,” to which Anil Wadhwa, secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said: “It is most unfortunate that Pakistan has once again chosen to use an international forum such as this to make tendentious remarks about state of Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral part of India” (The Hindu). Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between both countries for more than 60 years.
Ford Foundation is on India’s watch list
The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has put grants from U.S.-based Ford Foundation on its watch list in the interest of “national security,” and also under the “prior approval category,” according to news reports on Thursday (NYT, Indian Express). The decision came after the Gujarat government probed into the alleged misuse of funds by a non-governmental organization — run by human rights activist Teesta Setalvad — that is one of the reported recipients of grants from the foundation. The Ford Foundation said that while it had not been directly contacted by the ministry, it would “continue to respond fully to official queries,” and further added: “We are confident in our work and compliance with the law and look forward to the outcome of this inquiry” (NDTV).
— Neeli Shah
EU extends police mission
On Thursday, the European Union extended its police mission in Afghanistan until the end of 2016 (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The agreement was signed between Pia Stjernvall, the head of the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan and Afghan Minister of Interior Noorul Haq Ulumi. Stjernvall stated: “For the next two years, EUPOL will go in hand in hand with you to develop a civilian police service. A civilian police service that will serve the needs of the people. A civilian police service that makes people feel safe and protected. A civilian police service that will be professional, accountable and effective.” The European Union’s police mission has provided training for Afghan police since 2009.
Two new AIDS cases discovered
On Thursday Afghan officials announced that two new AIDS cases had been identified in Takhar province bringing the total number of cases to 18 (Pajhwok). According Dr. Hafizullah Sapi, the provincial health director, two people were infected one man and woman. The HIV positive man had spent time in prison in Tajikistan and died in Takhar’s prison after being transferred there to serve the rest of his sentence. Dr. Sapi added that the province’s civil hospitals lack the capabilities to conduct HIV tests.
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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