India and Pakistan Reschedule Peace Talks; Pakistan Arrests Head of JeM Militant Group in Pathankot Air Base Attack; ISIS Claims Responsibility for Attack on Pakistan Consulate in Afghanistan

India India and Pakistan reschedule peace talks Indian and Pakistani officials have agreed to reschedule high-level diplomatic talks, which were postponed after an attack by Pakistan-based militants on an Indian air base in Pathankot, in the northwestern state of Punjab (BBC, NDTV). The attack and the ensuing gun battle, which lasted from Jan. 2-5, left seven Indian ...

LAHORE, PAKISTAN - DECEMBER 25: Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif (R) meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) in Lahore, Pakistan on December 25, 2015. (Photo by Indian Press Information office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

India

India and Pakistan reschedule peace talks

Indian and Pakistani officials have agreed to reschedule high-level diplomatic talks, which were postponed after an attack by Pakistan-based militants on an Indian air base in Pathankot, in the northwestern state of Punjab (BBCNDTV). The attack and the ensuing gun battle, which lasted from Jan. 2-5, left seven Indian soldiers and six militants dead. The peace talks were scheduled to take place on Jan. 15 in Islamabad, but both sides have agreed to move them to a date in the near future. Indian officials praised Pakistan's efforts to date to arrest key members of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the militant group believed to be responsible for the attack. Pakistani officials said on Wednesday that they arrested the group's leader, Maulana Masood Azhar. However, Indian officials have indicated that they are awaiting independent confirmation of Azhar's arrest. India also welcomed Pakistan's proposal to send its own team of investigators to investigate the attack. "We look forward to the visit of Pakistan SIT [Special Investigation Team] and our investigative agencies will extend all necessary cooperation," said Vikas Swarup, India's foreign secretary.

India

India and Pakistan reschedule peace talks

Indian and Pakistani officials have agreed to reschedule high-level diplomatic talks, which were postponed after an attack by Pakistan-based militants on an Indian air base in Pathankot, in the northwestern state of Punjab (BBCNDTV). The attack and the ensuing gun battle, which lasted from Jan. 2-5, left seven Indian soldiers and six militants dead. The peace talks were scheduled to take place on Jan. 15 in Islamabad, but both sides have agreed to move them to a date in the near future. Indian officials praised Pakistan’s efforts to date to arrest key members of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the militant group believed to be responsible for the attack. Pakistani officials said on Wednesday that they arrested the group’s leader, Maulana Masood Azhar. However, Indian officials have indicated that they are awaiting independent confirmation of Azhar’s arrest. India also welcomed Pakistan’s proposal to send its own team of investigators to investigate the attack. “We look forward to the visit of Pakistan SIT [Special Investigation Team] and our investigative agencies will extend all necessary cooperation,” said Vikas Swarup, India’s foreign secretary.

4 Indians attempting to join ISIS arrested in Syria

Syrian government security forces on Wednesday arrested four Indian citizens alleged to have gone to the country to fight alongside ISIS (Indian ExpressThe Hindu). The arrests were announced by Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid al-Moualem, who is on a three-day visit to India. “We have arrested four Indians who had come to Syria to fight alongside IS. They are currently in Damascus jail. We have asked Indian authorities to come and see them and take them back,” said Moualem. As many as 23 Indians, at least six of whom are dead, are suspected of joining ISIS, according to the Indian Express.

American tourist dies after being chased by locals in Goa

A 30-year old tourist from the United States, Caitan Vholte, died after falling in a rice paddy while running away from local villagers in the western state of Goa on Thursday (NDTVIndian Express). He is believed to have drowned, but the police are awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination for confirmation. According to the police, Vholte got into an argument with three Nigerian tourists at a beach before entering a local residence. The residents raised an alarm, and local villagers chased after Vholte, believing him to be a thief. The U.S. consulate in New Delhi said it has asked authorities for details on Vholte’s death.

Pakistan

Pakistan arrests head of JeM militant group in Pathankot air base attack

Officials announced on Wednesday that Pakistan has arrested the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group Maulana Masood Azhar and several members of his group on suspicion that JeM masterminded the Jan. 2 attack on Pathankot air base in India (Reuters). “We will keep them for as long as we need to carry out our investigation over India’s claims about the attack. We are resolved to take this investigation to its conclusion,” an unnamed senior intelligence official said.

The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan were previously scheduled to meet on Friday as part of a budding diplomatic thaw after decades of hostility. In a symbol of good faith, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise trip to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Dec. 25. However, talks were postponed as India demanded Pakistan take “prompt and decisive” action over the Jan. 2 air base attack before the diplomatic meeting goes ahead. Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said talks would not be held on Friday and that a new date was being considered (BBC). Islamabad, which India has long accused of backing Islamist militant attacks, promised to prosecute those responsible for the air base attack.

Pakistani television station attacked with explosives

On Wednesday, attackers on a motorcycle threw grenades and opened fire on the ARY News Islamabad office wounding one person (Reuters). Security guards chased away the drive-by attackers, and an editor hit in the head by shrapnel was hospitalized. According to the station, the attackers left behind pamphlets that said the “Islamic State Khorasan Province” claimed responsibility for attacking media that it accused of “siding with the apostate army and government of Pakistan in their global crusade against Islam.”

Afghanistan

ISIS claims responsibility for attack on Pakistan consulate in Afghanistan

ISIS militants in Afghanistan claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the attack on the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad (NYT, Reuters). The attack took place early Wednesday morning as visa applicants lined up near the consulate and began after a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest near a police vehicle, according to witnesses. After the explosion, two gunmen wearing police uniforms overran an Afghan government guesthouse near the Pakistani consulate and fought Afghan forces for almost three hours. ISIS’ claim, posted on Telegram — an encrypted messaging phone application — by the group’s central command to announce attacks, represents their first high-profile attack in Afghanistan.

New National Front of Afghanistan opposition party launched

On Thursday, the New National Front of Afghanistan (NNF) officially launched as an opposition party and called for new elections to replace the current government (TOLO News). Speaking at the launch, Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, chairman of the NNF, stated, “The incumbent government is a failure. It is incompetent and dishonest. The New National Front of Afghanistan believes that based on the constitution, elections should be held so as to replace the current government. We are an opposition party; we are not trying to be part of the government.” Ahadi served as Finance Minister under former president Hamid Karzai and supported Ghani during his pre-election campaign in 2014.

–Alyssa Sims and Udit Banerjea

Edited by Peter Bergen

Indian Press Information office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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