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News, December 2009

 
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Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

 

3 Pakistanis Killed in Peshawar Blast, 2 in Islamabad Suicide Bombing, 15 Taliban Fighters Killed by Army in Swat Valley

 

Blast rocks NW Pakistan's Peshawar, several killed

    PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) --

At least three people were killed and 14 others were injured as a blast rocked an office building and a neighboring restaurant in northwest Pakistan's Peshawar on Saturday.

    The explosion occurred in the United Plaza on University Road in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Many lawyers and other professionals have their offices in the plaza while Afghan refugees also reside in nearby residential block.

    Shafatullah Malik, chief of local Bomb Disposal Squad, told reporters that the blast was caused accidentally in a paint shop located at the ground floor of the building. He said that no proofs about use of explosives were found from the blast site.

    Earlier, District Coordination Officer of Peshawar Sahibzada Muhammad Anis confirmed that the blast was a car bomb blast.

    Eyewitnesses also said that a suspected car which was parked there for a long time blew up with a loud explosion. Afterwards, some low intensity blasts were also heard.

    Witnesses said that soon after the blast the building caught fire and the smokes are seen billowing from the building.

    Many tenants were stranded in the building as it caught fire after the blast and later were evacuated by the local people. According to NWFP Inspector General Malik Naveed, all the trapped people in the building have been evacuated.

    More than 20 shops and several cars were destroyed due to the blast and fire. Heavy black smoke caused by the fire surrounded the blast site and created hurdles in relief activities.

    The relief teams including Fire Brigade and police and ambulances arrived on the spot. The injured are being rushed to the nearby Lady Reading Hospital.

    Police have also cordoned off the area while the firefighters are engaged in extinguishing fire.

    The University Road area is a commercial site, where many offices including those of lawyers and custom agencies and handicraft shops are situated at this plaza.

    Pakistan has been suffering almost daily attacks in recent days. At least 36 people, including a major general, a brigadier, a colonel, two lieutenant colonels, two majors, three soldiers and 17 children, were killed and 83 others were injured when two Taliban suicide bombers, aided by two gunmen, ripped through a mosque in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, during Friday prayers.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Pakistan kills 15 in restive northwest

By Junaid Khan

Thu Dec 3, 2009, 6:19 am ET

MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters)

Pakistani security forces killed at least 15 Taliban fighters, including a commander, in clashes on Thursday in the volatile northwest near the Afghan border.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is under growing U.S. pressure to crack down harder on militants in border areas to help it fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama plans to send 30,000 more troops to try to put down an insurgency.

Obama said in a speech on Tuesday the United States would not tolerate Pakistan allowing its territory to be a safe haven for militants and urged it to fight the "cancer" of extremism.

The latest clashes took place in the northwestern Swat valley, two days after a teenage suicide bomber killed an anti-Taliban lawmaker in the region.

The army, battling a Taliban insurgency, launched what it said was a successful offensive in Swat in late April that cleared most of the area, but it still faces pockets of resistance.

A Taliban commander Nasim Shah, alias Abu Faraj, was killed in the fighting that erupted after security forces raided a militant hideout in the Kabal area of the valley.

"One soldier was wounded while 11 (Pakistani Taliban fighters) including Abu Faraj was killed," military spokesman Major Mushtaq Ahmed said.

Abu Faraj was a close associate of Fazlullah, the Taliban leader in Swat who told the BBC last month he fled to Afghanistan and would launch attacks against the Pakistani army from there.

Four (Pakistani Taliban fighters) were killed in clashes elsewhere in the valley, a security official said.

Separately, security forces arrested 13 (Pakistani Taliban fighters), including three commanders, in Khyber, a tribal region where convoys carrying supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan are frequently attacked, said a statement from the Frontier Corps paramilitary force.

In his address, Obama said the United States would help Pakistan root out militants in the tribal border area.

Pakistan is worried that the U.S. troop surge could send (Afghani Taliban fighters) fleeing to its territory, particularly in the southwestern Baluchistan province where it is struggling to end a low-level insurgency.

Pakistani security forces killed more than 2,000 fighters in Swat, about 120 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, in the offensive, according to the army. There has been no independent verification of that casualty estimate.

The army launched a major offensive against the militants in their South Waziristan bastion on the Afghan border in mid-October. The militants responded with a spate of bombings, killing hundreds of people.

Four people, including two policemen, were wounded in a roadside bomb blast in the city of Peshawar on Thursday.

(Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Michael Georgy and Alex Richardson)

Suicide bomber kills one in Pakistan navy HQ attack

by Khurram Shahzad

Wed Dec 2, 2009, 12:32 pm ET

ISLAMABAD (AFP)

A suicide bomber attacked Pakistan's navy headquarters in the capital Islamabad on Wednesday, killing a naval policeman and injuring 11 others in the latest blast in the insurgency-hit nation.

A young man walked up to a checkpoint at the entrance to the complex and detonated his explosives when challenged by security forces. The blast scattered body parts across the busy city centre road, police and witnesses said.

Pakistani Talibn fighters frequently target military installations and attacks have intensified as Islamabad pursues a fierce military offensive, under Western pressure to do more to eliminate Taliban and Al-Qaeda sanctuaries.

Wednesday's blast came after US President Barack Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to battle the Taliban in Afghanistan, and said that success in the war there depended on Pakistan's own fight against extremism.

Fazeel Asghar, the city authorities' top administrative official, told reporters that a man aged around 17 or 18 and wearing a suicide jacket approached the heavily-guarded naval complex on foot.

"Security officials checked him and one navy police constable, Mohammad Ashraf, asked him to take off his coat. The bomber then blew himself up and the navy constable died in the blast," he said.

Navy spokesman Captain Mubeen Bajwa said security guards stopped the bomber after a taxi driver complained about his suspicious behaviour.

"A total of 11 people were injured, including five soldiers of the Pakistan navy and six civilians. One of them is critically injured," he said.

Witnesses described the scene in the aftermath of the blast, which shattered car windows and left blood streaked across the road: "I was in a nearby street when I heard a loud explosion," said witness Imtiaz Ali.

"When I reached the main Margalla Road there was smoke near the navy complex. I saw three soldiers lying wounded."

President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the suicide attack, saying that "such incidents would not deter the government's resolve to fight terrorism and extremism from the country", a government statement said.

The attack came a day after a Pakistani provincial lawmaker was killed in a suicide attack in the northwestern valley of Swat, and as Taliban insurgents have intensified attacks to avenge the military's multi-pronged offensive.

The military are a frequent target: a brazen raid and hostage siege at the army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in October hit the heart of the country's most powerful establishment.

Islamabad itself was last hit in late October, when twin suicide blasts tore through the International Islamic University, killing up to five people.

Security has drastically deteriorated in Pakistan since Islamabad joined the US-led "war on terror" and hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants fled into the tribal belt after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

More than 2,570 people have been killed in suicide blasts and attacks here since July 2007, when the insurgency intensified.

Islamabad has this year launched multiple offensives against the Taliban across the country's northwest, sparking a wave of retaliatory suicide bombings, but its Western allies are urging the administration to do more.

Laying out his new Afghan strategy late Tuesday, Obama vowed to start a withdrawal of troops from the war-torn nation in July 2011.

He praised Pakistan's operations in South Waziristan, but indicated that pressure would remain on Islamabad.

"We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear," he said.

Washington and London have expressed concern that militants hide out in Pakistan's mountainous and lawless border regions, regrouping and training before slipping over the border to target foreign forces.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday pledged an "enduring" US and allied commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding Washington that would also significantly expand support to Pakistan.

"It should be clear to everyone that -- unlike the past -- the United States and our allies and partners have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region," Clinton told US lawmakers.

She added: "We will significantly expand support intended for Pakistan to develop the potential of their people."





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