Tag Archive: The Taliban


Pakistan suicide bombs kill 80 to avenge bin Laden

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110513/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Riaz Khan, Associated Press 44 mins ago

HABQADAR, Pakistan – A pair of Taliban suicide bombers attacked paramilitary police recruits eagerly heading home for a break after months of training, killing 80 people Friday in the first act of retaliation for the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In claiming responsibility, the al-Qaida linked militant group cited anger at Pakistan’s military for failing to stop the American incursion on their soil.

The blasts in the northwest were a reminder of the savagery of Islamist insurgents in Pakistan. Tensions also have risen between the U.S. and Islamabad over allegations that some elements of Pakistani security forces had been harboring bin Laden, who died in a May 2 raid in Abbottabad, a garrison town about three hours’ drive from the scene of the bombing.

“We have done this to avenge the Abbottabad incident,” Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told The Associated Press in a phone call. He warned that the group was also planning attacks on Americans living inside Pakistan.

The bombers blew themselves up in Shabqadar at the main gate of the facility for the Frontier Constabulary, a poorly equipped but front-line force in the battle against al-Qaida and allied Islamist groups like the Pakistani Taliban close to the Afghan border. Like other branches of Pakistan’s security forces, it has received U.S. funding to try to sharpen its skills.

At least 80 people were killed, including 66 recruits, and around 120 people were wounded, said police officer Liaqat Ali Khan.

Around 900 young men were leaving the center after spending six months of training there. They were in high spirits and looking forward to seeing their families, for which some had brought gifts, a survivor said.

Some people were sitting inside public minivans and others were loading luggage atop the vehicles when the bombers struck, witnesses said.

“We were heading toward a van when the first blast took place and we fell on the ground and then there was another blast,” said 21-year-old Rehmanullah Khan. “We enjoyed our time together, all the good and bad weather and I cannot forget the cries of my friends before they died.”

The scene was littered with shards of glass mixed with blood and flesh. The explosions destroyed at least 10 vans.

It was the first major militant attack in Pakistan since bin Laden’s death on May 2, and the deadliest this year.

Militants had pledged to avenge the killing and launch reprisal strikes in Pakistan.

The Taliban spokesman suggested the attack was aimed as punishment against Pakistani authorities for failing to stop the unilateral U.S. raid that killed bin Laden, something that has sparked popular nationalist and Islamist anger.

“The Pakistani army has failed to protect its land,” Ahsan said.

In its communications, the Taliban often tries to tap into popular sentiments in the country, where anti-Americanism is often stronger than feelings against Islamist militants. This is despite militant attacks over the last four years claiming the lives of many hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians.

Some 350 lawyers sympathetic with Islamists attended special prayers for bin Laden on the premises of the provincial high court in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday. The lawyers cursed the May 2 raid, chanting “Down with America.”

The explosive vests used in Friday’s attacks were packed with ball bearings and nails, police said.

Police official Nisar Khan said a suicide bomber in his late teens or early 20s set off one of the blasts.

“The first blast occurred in the middle of the road, and after that there was a huge blast that was more powerful than the first,” said Abdul Wahid, a 25-year-old recruit whose legs were wounded in the blasts.

Bin Laden, the Sept. 11 mastermind, and at least four others were killed by U.S. Navy SEALs who raided his compound in Abbottabad. Bin Laden is believed to have lived in the large house for up to six years.

Pakistani officials have denied knowing he was there but criticized the U.S. raid ordered by President Barack Obama as a violation of their country’s sovereignty. To counter allegations that Pakistan harbored bin Laden, the officials point out that thousands of Pakistani citizens, and up to 3,000 of its security forces, have died in suicide and other attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, when Islamabad became an ally of the U.S. in taking on Islamist extremists.

Many of the attacks have targeted Pakistani security forces, but government buildings, religious minorities and Western targets also have been hit.

Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, admitted “negligence” on the part of authorities in failing to find bin Laden during a closed session in Parliament on Friday, a government spokeswoman told reporters. Military officials, including the powerful army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said they would improve the country’s air defenses, which did not detect the high-tech U.S. choppers used in the raid.

The military leaders also assured lawmakers that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals are safe and that the armed forces were capable of defending the country, said Firdous Ashiq Awan, the federal information minister.

In another development Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said a U.S. missile strike killed three people near the Afghan border.

The four missiles struck a vehicle in the Doga Madakhel village of North Waziristan tribal region. North Waziristan is home to many militant groups dedicated to attacking Western troops in Afghanistan.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. They did not know the identities of the dead.

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Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan and Deb Riechmann in Islamabad, Babar Dogar in Lahore and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.

Afghan Taliban declare start to spring offensive

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110430/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_taliban

By Jonathon Burch and Rob Taylor Jonathon Burch And Rob Taylor 2 hrs 18 mins ago

KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban declared the start of a spring offensive across Afghanistan on Saturday, warning they would target foreign troops as well as Afghan security forces and top government officials in a wave of attacks including suicide bombings.

In a statement, the hardline Islamists warned Afghan civilians to stay away from public gatherings, military bases and convoys, as well as Afghan government centers and buildings, as these would be the focus of attacks starting on May 1.

The Taliban statement comes just a day after senior military officials and Western diplomats warned they expected a surge in attacks over the next week, beginning on Sunday.

“The Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to declare the launching of the spring military operations named as “Badar” to be waged against the invading Americans and their foreign allies and internal supports,” the Taliban said in an emailed statement.

“Operations will focus on attacks against military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country,” the Taliban said.

Senior military officials told Reuters on Friday that recent intelligence reporting indicated the campaign of increased violence would last about a week and would be mounted by the Taliban, supported by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and other insurgents.

Brigadier General Josef Blotz, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said coalition bases were bolstering security in anticipation of attacks.

“We do know for quite some time already that the insurgency plans an attempt to come out with a surge of violence in certain areas of this country in the next days,” Blotz told Reuters.

The United Nations said it was relocating some of its staff in Afghanistan after receiving “credible threats” of increased attacks in a “number of locations around the country.”

The United Nations has been the target of several insurgent attacks over the past two years. Earlier this month, seven international staff were killed after protesters overran a U.N. compound in northern Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Taliban denied involvement in that attack, but officials said insurgents had been involved in stirring up an already angry crowd.

“As a precautionary measure the United Nations is shifting its staff from some of its regional operational centers into safe locations for a short period. Staff are not leaving their regions and will continue working from these locations,” said Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan.

CIVILIAN WARNING

The Taliban said the targets of the attacks would be foreign forces, high-ranking officials of President Hamid Karzai’s government, members of the cabinet and lawmakers, as well as the heads of foreign and local companies working for ISAF.

“All Afghan people should bear in mind to keep away from gatherings, convoys and centers of the enemy so that they will not become harmed during attacks of Mujahideen against the enemy,” the Taliban said.

Senior military commanders have long anticipated a spike in violence with the arrival of the spring and summer “fighting season,” although the usual winter lull was not seen as U.S-led forces pressed their attacks against insurgents, particularly in the Taliban’s southern heartland.

While Washington and ISAF commanders have trumpeted successes against a growing insurgency since 30,000 extra U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan last year, the insurgency has shown little sign of abating.

Violence across Afghanistan hit record levels in 2010, with civilian and military casualties the worst since U.S-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001.

The Pentagon said in a report on Friday that an overall increase in violence was due in part to increased targeting of insurgent safe havens and unseasonably mild weather.

The Taliban did not say how long their stepped-up campaign would last, but said it had been codenamed “Badar” after a decisive Muslim 7th century battle victory in western Arabia that Muslims attribute to divine intervention.

In the statement, the Taliban repeated their frequent claim that fighting in Afghanistan would not end until foreign troops had left the country. They also called on Afghan government officials and security forces to switch sides to the insurgency.

Military commanders interviewed by Reuters this week were not sure why May 1 had been chosen by the Taliban to launch their renewed offensive.

The anticipated Taliban campaign would not change the coalition’s counterinsurgency strategy put in place last year by U.S. General David Petraeus, the commander of the 150,000 U.S. and ISAF troops in Afghanistan, they said.

Under a program agreed at a NATO summit last year, ISAF said it will begin handing security responsibility to Afghan forces in several areas from July. The program will end with the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

(Additional reporting by Abdul Saboor; Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Paul Tait)

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