OVER 536 KILLED IN SUICIDE ATTACKS SINCE MAY 2 OPERATION
By Javed Aziz Khan
The News International (Pakistan)
May 4, 2012
PESHAWAR -- Over 536 lives were lost in 36 suicide attacks while around 467 persons were killed in 55 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad last year.
Official sources and statistics collected independently show that 91 persons were killed in 13 drone attacks during the first four months of the current year. Over 376 others were killed in 42 other missile attacks fired by the U.S. drones in different parts of the country since the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2 till the end of last year. The total number of drone attacks during the last year was around 59 that killed 548 persons.
On the other hand, 13 suicide attacks were reported from different parts of the country during the first four months of the current year killing 133 people and wounding another 147.
A total of 41 suicide bombings killed over 620 persons and wounded 1180 persons last year. The number of previous year’s suicide attacks after the Abbottabad operation is 23 reportedly killing 401 persons.
A professor at the International Relations department at the University of Peshawar, Dr. Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, was of the opinion that the militant attacks have decreased after bin Laden’s death.
However, he said there was still a high-level of sympathy for bin Laden in rural Pakistan while there is confusion among the commoners regarding the death of the most wanted man in the world as his body was not shown to the public.
The militants struck for the first time after bin Laden’s killing with the twin-suicide bombings outside the Frontier Constabulary Training Center in Shabqadar in the second week of May, killing around 90 persons, mostly F.C. men and wounding over 100. The TTP claimed to have carried out the attack to avenge bin Laden’s murder and vowed to carry out more strikes.
A few days later, terrorists struck outside the office of the district administration, killing more than 39 persons.
The other major incidents during the previous year included the suicide blast in Jandool, Lower Dir district and in Ghundi area of Jamrud, Khyber Agency. Around 100 persons were killed in the two attacks.
The major incidents of terrorism during the current year included the suicide attack during the funeral prayers in Badaber near Peshawar in March, leaving 18 persons dead. A couple of days later, another suicide bomber blew up close to the vehicle of superintendent of police (SP)-Rural Kalam Khan, who died in the attack.
A suicide bombing in Parachinar and bombing in Tirah valley’s mosque were among the major terror attacks during the current year in which about 70 people were killed.
During the current year, the terrorists also attacked the C-Division Police Station in Peshawar with three suicide bombers, but they failed to cause any major casualty or damage. Apart from suicide bombings and drone attacks, the major terrorist attack during the current year included the jailbreak in Bannu where 384 prisoners managed to escape after militants stormed the prison with rockets and automatic weapons. A major incident during the last year, other than suicide bombings, was the attack on Mehran Base in Karachi.
PAKISTAN BLAST KILLS 24
Oman Daily Observer
May 5, 2012
KHAR -- A bomber targeted police in a bustling Pakistan town square yesterday, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens in the tribal area near the Afghan border, officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it had wanted to kill the local chief and deputy of a tribal police force recruited by the government to help defeat the group in the northwest.
Both died in the attack in Khar, the main town of Bajaur district, after a bomber who intelligence officials said detonated explosives. Yesterday’s blast was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan since February 17, when 31 people were killed by an attack in the tribal district of Kurram. “The death toll has risen to 24,” Islam Zeb, the administrative head of Bajaur tribal district, said. He had earlier said 20 people were killed.
Raids were later carried out in the surrounding areas of Khar and two men aged 17 and 18 were arrested, he said. At least five policemen, including the local tribal police chief and his deputy, were among the dead and 46 people were wounded. Shops and a restaurant were destroyed.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility, saying that anyone involved in “activity” against the Taliban “will be treated with iron hands.” It was the third bomb attack in two days in Bajaur, after twin blasts killed five people.
DRONE STRIKE KILLS FOUR SUSPECTED MILITANTS IN PAKISTAN
By Jibran Ahmed
April 29, 2012
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A U.S. drone strike killed four suspected militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border on Sunday, intelligence officials and witnesses said, the first strike in almost a month.
The controversial drone program, a key element in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, is highly unpopular in Pakistan, where it is considered a violation of sovereignty which causes many civilian casualties.
A Pakistani parliamentary committee recently demanded an end to drone strikes on Pakistani territory as part of its recommendations for how its relationship with Washington should change. The United States has given no indication it intends to halt the campaign.
The remotely piloted aircraft targeted an abandoned girls' high school building used by militants in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, the officials and witnesses said. Three militants were wounded.
"We intercepted internal conversation of the militants asking for arranging four coffins for the slain men in the drone attack. We don't know about their identity and nationality but those living in the girls' school were mostly Arabs," a security official said.
A local resident, Haji Niamat Khan, said more than two dozen militants were living in the school when it was attacked.
The last drone strike, on March 30, killed four suspected militants and wounded three in the same town of Miranshah, a known hotbed for Pakistan Taliban and foreign militants.
The strikes are a major stumbling block in restoring ties with Washington, badly frayed after an inadvertent cross-border attack by NATO aircraft on Nov 26 last year killed 24 Pakistani troops.
The United States says the strikes in Pakistan's unruly northwestern tribal regions along the Afghan border are very accurate and there is minimal collateral damage.
(Additional reporting by Haji Mujtaba in MIRANSHAH and Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN; Writing By Mahawish Rezvi; Editing by Chris Allbritton)
U.S. DOESN'T EXPECT PAKISTAN TO REOPEN AFGHAN WAR SUPPLY ROUTES SOON
By Missy Ryan
May 4, 2012
WASHINGTON -- As the Taliban kicks off its spring fighting season in Afghanistan, an agreement with Pakistan that would help NATO supply its troops there could be weeks or months away, forcing military leaders to spend two-and-a-half times as much to ship some supplies through Central Asia.
The Obama administration remains locked in negotiations with Pakistan to reopen the key supply routes into Afghanistan, and officials do not expect talks bogged down over proposed tariffs and U.S. military assistance to reach resolution anytime soon.
The continued closure of ground routes, which Islamabad shut after two dozen of its soldiers were killed by NATO aircraft in November, poses one more challenge to U.S. President Barack Obama's already troubled campaign in Afghanistan.
A deal is almost certainly impossible before May 20-21, when Obama will host NATO leaders in his hometown of Chicago. There, Western leaders will define plans for moving out of Afghanistan and for funding local troops they hope can contain a resilient insurgency when NATO withdraws.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that talks in Islamabad between Pakistani and U.S. officials on supply routes, were continuing this week, but "no decisions are imminent."
"There's value in continuing to have those discussions, but there's no sense those talks are going to turn into decisions" shortly, the official said.
A deal would require agreement on Pakistan's proposal to impose tariffs on NATO supplies, including how tariffs would be formulated, where that money would go, and how the West would ensure those funds were being used appropriately.
Another issue stalling the talks is disagreement over how much the United States should reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism activity by Pakistani forces.
The United States believes it owes Pakistan about $1 billion in arrears for that program, called Coalition Support Funds, while Pakistan contends the figure is much higher, perhaps over three times as much. The Pentagon has approved over $8.8 billion in military reimbursements for Pakistan since 2002.
Once those arrears have been paid, both countries appear to want to set up a new arrangement for providing U.S. financial support for Pakistan's anti-militant activities.
Pakistan's supply routes have been closed since the November 26 cross-border NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged already tumultuous ties between the two uneasy allies to their lowest point in years.
Before their closure, the two land supply routes through Pakistan accounted for just under a third of all cargo that the NATO-led force in Afghanistan shipped there. The closure has held up thousands of tons of equipment.
Pakistan has said it will impose tariffs on ports and roads used by NATO, in part to express Pakistani outrage over the border deaths and in part to shore up funding for its fight against militants that target the Pakistani state.
The Pentagon says the route closure has not yet had a real impact on the fight in Afghanistan. "Obviously it gets more challenging as we get closer to 2014," the U.S. official said, when most foreign combat troops will make their way home.
In a report released this week, the Defense Department warned that a prolonged closure of the supply routes could "significantly degrade" withdrawal operations as NATO nations try to establish a modicum of stability in Afghanistan before most of their troops are pulled out at the end of 2014.
While the Taliban has been pushed out of some areas since 2009, when Obama began a troop surge designed to turn around a long-neglected war, the insurgency remains resilient.
The talks come as the Obama administration tries to repair ties with Pakistan also damaged by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas and the U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.
They also come at a sensitive moment in Pakistan, where the parliament has approved recommendations from its national security committee on ties with the United States, including a demand to end drone strikes and an apology for the soldiers' deaths.
"Certainly the domestic situation in Pakistan has a role to play" in the negotiations, the U.S. official said.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)
U.S. DRONE STRIKES RESUME IN PAKISTAN; ACTION MAY COMPLICATE VITAL NEGOTIATIONS
by Richard Leiby and Karen DeYoung
April 29, 2012
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- CIA drone missiles hit militant targets in Pakistan on Sunday for the first time in a month, as the United States ignored the Pakistani government’s insistence that such attacks end as a condition for normalized relations between the two perpetually uneasy allies.
The drone strikes, which have long infuriated the Pakistani public, killed four al-Qaeda-linked fighters in a girls’ school they had taken over in the North Waziristan tribal area, security officials there said.
Warning of diplomatic consequences, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the attacks, the first since Parliament’s unanimous vote this month approving new guidelines for the country’s relationship with the United States. Some politicians said the drone strikes might set back already difficult negotiations over the reopening of vital NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that Pakistan blocked five months ago.
Last week, after two days of high-level talks in Islamabad, Pakistan told U.S. negotiators that it would not allow NATO convoys to cross its territory unless the United States unconditionally apologized for November airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border. Although the Obama administration has expressed regret for the killings, which it said were accidental, the Pentagon says both sides share blame.
Washington has made it clear that an apology will not be forthcoming, but officials from both governments say they are committed to ongoing talks. A Pentagon-led team of ten negotiators, including State Department and White House officials, remains in Islamabad to focus on getting the NATO supply lines open.
“We haven't found a solution yet, but everybody wants to find one,” said one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the two nations have maintained a bargain: Pakistan gets billions in aid and the United States gets supply routes and a counterterrorism ally. Part of the negotiations for the reopening of the border crossings also focus on the United States releasing $1.1 billion in overdue coalition support funds -- money Pakistan is owed to cover its outlays for the battle against militants. Pakistan says the unpaid funds, with no U.S. payments made since mid-2010, total three times that amount.
The supply convoy routes from Pakistani seaports into land-locked Afghanistan not only support the war against the Taliban but also are crucial for the exit of U.S. troops and equipment in the combat-force withdrawal that is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014.
U.S. commanders have relied on stockpiles and goods brought in across Central Asia to the north while the Pakistani crossings have been closed. But the military has concluded that the tens of thousands of heavy vehicles and other materiel amassed over a decade of warfare in Afghanistan cannot be carried over those routes without enormous expense and effort, or within existing agreements with countries to the north.
In a process triggered by the November U.S. airstrikes on the Pakistani border posts, Pakistan’s Parliament on April 12 unanimously laid down foreign policy guidelines for future dealings with the United States, then passed them to the government of President Asif Ali Zardari for enforcement. The “terms of engagement” called for an immediate end to the CIA drone strikes, which Parliament had twice demanded in recent years, to no effect.
But this time, the civilian leaders acted with more authority than ever before in the nation’s 64-year history. The military, which conducted all previous Pakistani foreign relations, stood back to give the lawmakers and the government room to formulate key policies and negotiate with the United States.
The guidelines also said the government should seek an apology for “the condemnable and unprovoked” border attack by U.S. helicopters and fighter jets in November. At various times since November, the White House had considered making such an apology, but after militant attacks in Kabul on April 15 -- blamed on the Pakistan-based Haqqani insurgent network -- the United States ruled that out.
The resumption of the drone strikes -- while not unexpected, given their efficiency and effectiveness -- highlights a schism in the U.S. approach to Pakistan.
“When a duly elected democratic Parliament says three times not to do this, and the U.S. keeps doing it, it undermines democracy,” said a Pakistani government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preserve diplomatic relationships. “These drone strikes may kill terrorists, but the net loser is freedom and democracy.”
Prominent politicians predicted that the new drone strikes, the first inside Pakistan since March 30, would provoke a backlash against further negotiations on the supply lines and stir outcries that the United States has no regard for Pakistan’s sovereignty.
“There will be repercussions whether in the government or in the public or in the Parliament,” said Aftab Khan Sherpao, a National Assembly member who sat on the committee that drafted the guidelines. “In no case would we allow the NATO supplies now.”
Others saw the drone attacks as a provocation that undermined any notion that the United States had engaged in sincere, meaningful talks last week.
“The CIA could have opted not to go for a drone strike at such a crucial time, when senior U.S. officials are trying hard to iron out differences with Pakistan,” said Sheik Waqas Akram, a member of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet. “It shows that it has no regard for the Pakistani Parliament’s resolution.”
The target of Sunday’s attack was in Miran Shah, the largest town in North Waziristan and a base of operations for extremist groups including al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network. A senior U.S. official said intelligence had indicated that operatives there were “preparing explosives for use in attacks in Afghanistan, like the high-profile attacks in Kabul” on April 15.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the CIA’s covert drone program.
“Only individuals working directly on the explosives were killed or injured in this action, which we know with certainty helped protect Afghan and American lives,” the official said.
But Pakistan, in a statement late Sunday, called the attacks illegal and “violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
--DeYoung reported from Washington. Special correspondents Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad and Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report
|< Prev||Next >|