The South Asia Channel

Afghan Forces Pull Out of Key Districts in Helmand; Ten Million Residents in New Delhi Without Water; IS Claims Responsibility for Killing a Senior Hindu Priest in Bangladesh; New Government School Blown Up in South Waziristan;

Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Afghanistan on the Brink,” by Ioannis Koskinas Part 1 and Part 2 (FP) Afghan forces pull out of key districts in Helmand province Afghan forces pulled out of Nawzad district in Helmand on Monday following a withdrawal from bases in Musa Qala on Saturday, according to Afghan officials (NYT, Reuters). Army and ...

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard during an operation against Taliban militants in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on December 26, 2015.  Afghan forces scrambled December 24 to beat back the Taliban from Sangin as the insurgents claimed to have captured nearly the entire opium-rich district, following the first British deployment to the volatile region in 14 months. AFP PHOTO / Noor Mohammad / AFP / NOOR MOHAMMAD        (Photo credit should read NOOR MOHAMMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard during an operation against Taliban militants in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on December 26, 2015. Afghan forces scrambled December 24 to beat back the Taliban from Sangin as the insurgents claimed to have captured nearly the entire opium-rich district, following the first British deployment to the volatile region in 14 months. AFP PHOTO / Noor Mohammad / AFP / NOOR MOHAMMAD (Photo credit should read NOOR MOHAMMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Afghanistan on the Brink,” by Ioannis Koskinas Part 1 and Part 2 (FP)

Afghan forces pull out of key districts in Helmand province

Afghan forces pulled out of Nawzad district in Helmand on Monday following a withdrawal from bases in Musa Qala on Saturday, according to Afghan officials (NYT, Reuters). Army and government officials said security forces will redirect their resources to defending the area around the provincial capital Lashkar Gah and the main highway between Kabul and the western city of Herat. These withdrawals follow months of heavy fighting with Taliban insurgents.

Kidnapped Red Cross staff released in Afghanistan

Five Red Cross staff members who were kidnapped by an unidentified group of armed men in Ghazni province on Tuesday were released unharmed, the aid group announced on Friday (Reuters). “We are immensely relieved to know our five colleagues are free and in good health,” Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Kabul, said in a statement posted on the group’s Facebook page. The Red Cross temporarily suspended operations in the province following the abduction of staff. Marti said the group hopes to resume operations in Ghazni as soon as possible.

U.S. Air Force drone crashes in Kandahar

A MQ-9 Reaper, an unmanned U.S. aircraft, crashed on a Kandahar airfield on Saturday, according to a U.S. Air Force spokesman (Reuters). “U.S. Air Force authorities will investigate the cause of the crash but hostile fire was not a factor,” Captain Bryan Bouchard of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing said in a statement. There were no injuries reported in the crash.

India

Ten million residents in New Delhi without water after protesters damage Munak Canal

More than 10 million residents in New Delhi are left without water after protesters damaged the city’s main water source, the Munak Canal over the weekend (Reuters, Guardian, BBC). Keshav Chandra, head of Delhi’s water board, told the media it would take “three to four days” before normal supplies resumed to affected areas.

Protesters from the Jat community, demanding more government jobs seized the Munak canal, the city’s main water source on Friday. Sixteen people have been killed and hundreds hurt in of riots across the Haryana state since Friday. Officials say that prior warnings meant that people had managed to save water, and tankers had been dispatched to affected areas of the city. The army took control of parts of the canal on Monday morning, but repairs are expected to take time.

The land-owning Jat community is relatively affluent and has traditionally been seen as upper caste but the demonstrators have been demanding inclusion in caste quotas for jobs and education opportunities that are available to lower castes. In March 2014 the Congress-led national government said it would re-categorise Jats as Other Backward Castes (OBC) but India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Jats were not a backward community.

Tribal rights activist Soni Sori attacked

A prominent Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori, was attacked with a chemical substance in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday night (BBC). On Monday she was moved to Delhi for treatment. Ms. Sori said men on a motorcycle stopped her car, forced her to step out and then threw some liquid on her face. Doctors said it was not acid. Ms Sori is a member of Delhi’s governing Aam Aadmi Party. She is a critic of police violence towards tribespeople in Chhattisgarh, where a Maoist insurgency is active.

Gun battle near Srinagar ends, three militants killed

A three-day gunbattle near Srinagar in Indian administered Kashmir ended on Monday when Indian security forces killed all three militants who had stormed a government building on Saturday (Reuters, BBC). Three Indian army commandos, two policemen and a civilian also died in the fighting. The attack began on Saturday when militants shot at a bus carrying police personnel before breaking into the building which houses a government training institute. More than 100 people were inside at the time. Muslim separatists have been fighting Indian forces in the Indian portion of Kashmir since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels in the portion it controls and sending them to the Indian side, a claim its neighbor denies.

Bangladesh

IS claims responsibility for killing a senior Hindu priest

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killing of a senior Hindu priest Jogeswar Roy, in northern Bangladesh on Sunday (Independent, BBC). Two other worshipers were also injured in the attack. In a statement on Sunday, the group said that “caliphate soldiers” carried out the assaults using “light weapons”. Police say two assailants armed with pistols and cleavers attack Roy at his home in the temple earlier on Sunday. While the Bangladeshi government insists that IS is not active in the country, the jihadists in November said they carried out an attack on a Shia mosque in the north-western town of Bogra in which at least one person was killed. The militant group also claimed an October grenade attack on a Shia shrine Dhaka, which killed one and injured 80.

Pakistan

New government school blown up in South Waziristan

Militants blew up a newly constructed government school in South Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal regions on Friday, according to statement by a spokesman for a wing of the Pakistani Taliban on Saturday (Reuters). “We have blown up the school because it was a government installation,” Azam Tariq, a spokesman for an arm of the Pakistani Taliban known as the Sajna group, which claimed responsibility for the attack. Tariq said 18 laborers working on the site were abducted and released shortly thereafter. However, no one was injured in the blast.

Pakistani troops kill five militants

The Pakistani army says the country’s security forces killed five terrorists on Saturday in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border (NYT, RFE/RL). The troops found the militants near Ghalanai, the main town in the Mohmand tribal region, and killed them in a shootout, according to a military statement. The statement said that the men were planning “terrorist activity,” but did not provide details of their identities. The announcement comes days after militants killed nine police officers in two ambushes in Mohmand.

Islamic State suspected in Pakistan attack

Three policemen were killed by three unidentified assailants in Faisalabad in Punjab province on Friday, and the incident is being investigated as a possible attack by the Middle East-based militant group known as the Islamic State (IS) (NYT). The attackers, who escaped the scene, dropped pamphlets addressed to security officials which said a regional chapter of IS claimed responsibility for “recent attacks on security forces,” according to a senior police official. After similar attacks in Lahore and Islamabad during the past week, police chief Afzaal Kausa told Reuters, “The role of Islamic State cannot be ruled out, though they don’t have any known presence in Faisalabad.”

–Alyssa Sims and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

NOOR MOHAMMAD/AFP/Getty Images

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