Afghan Officials: Mullah Omar is Dead; Pakistan Says Peace Talks are Postponed; 1993 Mumbai Bomber Hanged
Bonus Read: “Who’s in Charge of the Taliban?” Casey Garrett Johnson (SouthAsia)
Mullah Omar died in 2013, Afghans confirm
After saying Wednesday that they were looking into claims that had been circulating for months that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s reclusive leader, was dead, Afghan officials announced that Omar died in 2013 in a Pakistani hospital (Pajhwok, NYT). Afghan officials offered no evidence regarding his death, and while American officials called the report credible, they did not offer any evidence either. The death of the Taliban leader, if true (a spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, told the Voice of America on Wednesday that the claims were false), would lend uncertainty to the upcoming peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. A statement from the Presidential Palace said: “The government of Afghanistan believes that the ground for the Afghan peace talks is more paved now than before, and thus calls on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process.” Bonus Read: “The Man Who Wouldn’t Hand Over Bin Laden to the U.S.” Peter Bergen (CNN)
Drone strikes kill 20 ISIS militants, says Afghan official
Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said two separate drone strikes in an eastern province bordering Pakistan have killed 20 militants affiliated with the ISIS (AP). He says both took place in Haska Mina district near the border with Pakistan; the district is adjacent to Pachi Agam district, where the militants are active. While a statement from the U.S. military in Afghanistan confirmed a “kinetic strike,” in Nangarhar, it only describes the target as “individuals threatening the force.” Abdulzaid said no civilians were killed or wounded.
Second round of peace talks postponed
A second round of peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban militants, due to be held in Pakistan on Friday, have been postponed amid reports of the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death (Reuters, Dawn). The Pakistani foreign office made the announcement on Thursday in a short statement. “In view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of Afghan peace talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on 31 July 2015, is being postponed,” the statement said. Bonus Read: “Omar’s Death Revelation Could Divide Militants, Undermine Peace Talks,” Pamela Constable (Post)
Violence erupts in Punjab
Protests flared into violent clashes at the funeral for Malik Shaq, chief of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, on Wednesday (AFP). Ishaq was killed in a shootout while in police custody when attackers ambushed the convoy; thirteen others were also killed. Police said violence broke out in Ishaq’s hometown, Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab when the bodies arrived for burial late Wednesday night. “Protesters tried to damage a Shia mosque and private properties and attacked police with stones,” district police officer Tariq Mastoi told AFP. It took about 5,000 police officers to bring the protests under control. Hours later, a group of armed militants attacked a police post in an eastern part of the province, engaging in a shootout that left two of the attackers dead and wounded two policemen. Malik Mansoor, a senior police official in Gujrat, said the attackers were LeJ members trying to avenge the death of Ishaq.
1993 Mumbai bomber hanged amid tight security
India has carried out the execution of Yakub Memon, the man convicted of financing the 1993 Mumbai bombings (PTI, Reuters, BBC). Memon was hanged at a prison in Nagpur in the western state of Maharashtra. The serial blasts killed 257 people, and were allegedly to avenge the killing of Muslims in riots a few months earlier. The March 1993 blasts targeted a dozen sites, including the Bombay Stock Exchange, the offices of national carrier Air India and a luxury hotel.
India rarely carries out death sentences; only three other people have been executed since 2004 on terrorism related offenses.
India set to become the most populous country earlier than expected
The United Nations on Wednesday changed its population growth projections predicting that India will become the world’s most populous country six years earlier than previously expected (WP). A new report by the population division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs says China and India have about 1.38 billion and 1.31 billion people, respectively. The report says after 2022, when both are expected to have about 1.4 billion, India’s population will continue rising and China’s will “remain fairly constant” until the 2030s, at which point it will begin to “slightly decrease.”
Earlier projections two years ago by the UN predicted that by 2028 India would likely pass China. India accounts for 18 percent of the world’s population and is projected to reach 1.5 billion people in 2030. The global population, currently at 7.3 billion, is predicted to hit 9.7 billion by 2050 according to the report.
“Gurdaspur attackers came from Pakistan,” home minister tells parliament
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the parliament on Thursday that according to preliminary evidence the gunmen who attacked a police station in Gurdaspur came from Pakistan (PTI, HT, NDTV). The minister said according to the information gathered from the Global Positioning System device seized from the terrorists that three attackers might have infiltrated the India-Pakistan border, taking advantage of heavy rains.
On Monday Indian security forces fought an 11 hour gunbattle with militants who attacked a bus and stormed into a police station in a northern town Gurdaspur in the state of Punjab, bordering Pakistan, killing 10 people including three police officers. All three attackers were killed in the firefight.
— Emily Schneider and Shuja Malik
Edited by Peter Bergen