Pakistan Security Brief – October 7, 2010

Pakistan Security Brief – October 7, 2010

 

Bombs rip through prominent Sufi Shrine in Karachi; NATO apologizes for deadly airstrike but Torkham border remains sealed; Report alleges the ISI is encouraging the Taliban to keep fighting; DNI Clapper warns of militant recruitment of Westerners; New details emerge of European citizens training in North Waziristan; ISI rejects claims that U.S. killed British terror plot mastermind; NATO resupply vehicles attacked; Torkham U.S. drone strikes kill 11 militants in North Waziristan, U.S. reportedly reaching out to Haqqani militants.

 

Karachi Bombing

  • At least 10 people were killed and dozens of others were wounded when two suicide bombers struck a prominent Sufi Shrine in Karachi late on Thursday.  The blasts targeted the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine which was reportedly packed with worshipers and passersby at the time of the attack. Details of Thursday’s bombing remain scarce, but officials report that the death toll is expected to rise.   President Zardari, opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, and MQM Chief Altaf Hussain have all strongly condemned the attack.  Today’s explosion occurs some four months after militants linked to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi bombed a major Sufi Shrine in Lahore. [1]

 

Al Qaeda Plots

  • The Director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, warned yesterday of the growing threat posed by militant groups that are recruiting Westerners to join their ranks.  The nation’s top intelligence official said that militant groups are working hard to actively recruit members of Western societies so that the groups can gain knowledge about Western culture, gauge potential security weaknesses, and ultimately “enhance their access” to targets in the West.  Clapper alluded to the news of terror plots against Europe targets as well as to new reports of foreigners receiving training in Pakistan’s tribal regions. DNI Clapper also cautioned that U.S. officials have recently observed an unprecedented number of attempt terror plots, and noted that they have “surpassed the number and pace of such attempts in any other year.”[2]

  • As many as 40 Germans and a smaller number of other Europeans may be training in Pakistan’s tribal areas according to reports from Western intelligence officials.  Online videos, electronic surveillance, and the death of five German militants earlier this week in a U.S. drone strike, all appear to confirm that a significant number of European citizens have joined the ranks of militants operating in the tribal areas, particularly North Waziristan.  The presence of militants with European citizenship has become an increasing concern for Western security officials after details emerged last week of a plot being hatched by al-Qaeda linked militants in Pakistan to target EU cities with Mumbai style attacks. [3] 

  • A senior member of the Pakistani ISI rejected on Thursday claims made by Western security officials that drone strikes killed a British born militant tasked to head an al-Qaeda splinter cell that intended to attack targets across Europe.  On Wednesday, Western intelligence officials revealed that they had killed Abdul Jabbar, a British citizen who they claimed had been selected by senior al-Qaeda militants to head a major terror operation in Europe.  However, a senior ISI member called those reports “just speculation” and stated that “no one with this name existed and I will say no one of British origin died in recent drone attack.” [4] 

  • Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists was reportedly killed in a U.S drone strike in September.  The FBI wanted al-Quso for his role in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.  According to reports, al-Quso was killed in the same drone strike that killed Abdul Jabbar, a British citizen who allegedly was in charge of an al-Qaeda splinter cell that intended to attack targets across Europe.[5]

 

US-Pakistan Relations

  • The United States and NATO formally apologized yesterday for a NATO airstrike that killed three Pakistani paramilitary soldiers last week in the Kurram tribal agency.  The Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, wrote a letter to Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani offering his “most sincere condolences,” while acting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, released a statement extending America’s “deepest apology to Pakistan and the families of the Frontier Scouts who were killed and injured.”  Yesterday’s apologies came after U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Tim Zadalis finalized an investigation into last week’s incident, in which he concluded that NATO aircraft inadequately coordinated with Pakistani military forces before striking an outpost used by the Frontier Corps.  NATO and U.S. officials hope that yesterday’s public apologies will help improve relations between the United States and Pakistan which have grown increasingly strained since last week’s deadly cross border incident. However, the Torkham checkpoint, which Pakistani authorities sealed last week in response to that airstrike, remained closed on Thursday despite the apologies. NATO vehicles were barred access to Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass for the seventh straight day.  Although Pakistani officials, including Foreign Minister Makhdoom Qureshi, have accepted the U.S. apology, a decision about when to reopen the border has yet to be made.  [6]

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, Islamic militants operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan have claimed that the ISI has been pushing them to attack NATO forces.  The militants claim that the Pakistani intelligence officers arrest Taliban commanders who fail to obey ISI orders, which frequently include the killing of innocent civilians. Senior Pakistani officials have dismissed these allegations. US officials have amplified their criticisms of the Pakistani intelligence agency, which they claim has been pressing Taliban field commanders to continue the fight against the US and its allies in Afghanistan to the detriment of U.S. and Afghan reconciliation and reintegration efforts.[7]

     

NATO Supply Chain

  • 26 NATO supply vehicles were ambushed and then set ablaze late Wednesday night in Nowshera in northwestern Pakistan.   The attack came just hours after militants torched as many as 40 NATO tankers vehicles in Quetta in Southern Pakistan.  Through their spokesman, Azam Tariq, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for both of yesterday’s attacks as well as a string of other deadly attacks on NATO supply vehicles since Pakistani authorities closed the Torkham border checkpoint last week.  Speaking to reporters, Tariq vowed that “the TTP will further intensify attacks”.  According to reports, as many as 6,500 NATO supply vehicles are currently parked waiting for permission to enter Afghanistan.  Meanwhile on Thursday, the spokesman for NATO forces was adamant that recent tanker attacks and the Torkham border closure were not impeding war efforts in Afghanistan.  Speaking to reporters, Brigadier General Josef Blotz assured, “We have plenty of stocks and supplies within Afghanistan, just in case things like this happen.” [8]

 

Drone Campaign

  • 11 militants were killed in two separate U.S. drone strikes in North Waziristan on Thursday. The first strike occurred in Miram Shah, while the other occurred in the forest outside of Khaisurai town in the Mir Ali district of the tribal agency.  In both strikes, U.S. drones targeted compounds believed to be housing militants.  According to officials, after both of the strikes local militants converged on the compounds to prevent people from assessing who was killed in the strikes. [9]

  • Abdul Basit, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, harshly criticized the United States drone campaign at a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday.  The Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters that the United States had “no justification” for the strikes and that the whole drone campaign was “counter-productive and also a violation of our sovereignty.” Abdul Basit blasted the drone strikes as antithetical to “larger strategic interests” by increasing anti-American sentiment across Pakistan.  Basit pleaded that the United States “revisit” the policy.  While Pakistani officials have previously condemned the US drone campaign, Basit’s comments come at a time when US-Pakistani relations are said to be at an all time low, and are first from high level Pakistani officials since the CIA as intensified its drone operations in North Waziristan. [10]

     

Haqqani Talks

  • According to a senior Pakistani official, both the Afghan and U.S. governments have recently made contacts with the Haqqani network. Well-placed Pakistani and Arab sources have said that Karzai’s government held direct talks with Haqqani leaders in the summer, while US contacts, established through a non-governmental western intermediary, have continued for over a year. Observers have suggested that the talks, which have been described as ‘extremely tentative’, appear to be an attempt by the US and Afghan governments to explore the notion of a political settlement with the insurgents if military action against them proves untenable. [11]

 



[1] Ali Syed, Jahanzaib Haque, Shaheryar Popalzai, "Abdullah Shah Ghazi Blasts," The Express Tribune, October 7, 2010.  Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/59617/twin-blasts-in-karachi/.
[2] Daniel Dombey, "US warns of terror groups’ western recruits," The Financial Times, October 6, 2010. Available at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f2edb098-d16e-11df-96d1-00144feabdc0.html.
[3] David Rising, “German militants training in Pakistani border area," Associated Press, October 7, 2010.  Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101007/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan_german_connection
[4] “Pakistan rubbishes report on death of British militant,” Dawn, October 7, 2010.  Available at http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/03-pakistan-rubbishes-report-on-death-of-british-militant-ss-03
[5] Duncan Gardham, Alex Spillius, Rob Crilly, "Terrorist on FBI most wanted list 'killed by drone'," Telegraph, October 6, 2010.  Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8047215/Terrorist-on-FBI-most-wanted-list-killed-by-drone.html. “Briton killed by drone in Pak ‘was to be terror chief’,” Dawn, October 6, 2010. Available at http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/12-briton+killed+by+drone+in+pakistan+was+to+be+terror+chief--bi-03?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+dawn/news/world+(DAWN.COM+-+World+News).
[6] “U.S. apologizes to Pakistan over NATO shootings,” Reuters, October 6, 2010.  Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6954GZ20101006.  .
 “Pakistan doesn’t reopen border despite US apology,” Dawn, October 7, 2010.  Available at http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/21-pakistan-doesn-reopen-border-despite-us-apology-sk-01.
[7] Julian E. Barnes, Matthew Rosenberg, and Habib Khan Totakhil, "Pakistan Urges on Taliban," The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2010.  Available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704689804575536241251361592.html.
[8] “Pakistan Taliban attacks destroy more than 40 NATO vehicles,” ATP, October 6, 2010.  Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101006/wl_asia_afp/pakistanunrestnato. “Alleged Suicide Bombs Kill 7 at Pakistan Sufi Site,” The New York Times, October 7, 2010.  Available at http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/10/07/world/asia/AP-AS-Pakistan.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
[9] “Pakistan Taliban attacks destroy more than 40 NATO vehicles,” ATP, October 6, 2010.  Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101006/wl_asia_afp/pakistanunrestnato.
[10] No justification for US drone strikes, says FO,” Dawn, October 7, 2010.  Available at http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/04-no-justification-for-drone-strikes-fo-qs-07.
[11] Julian Borger and Declan Walsh, "US and Afghan governments make contact with Haqqani insurgents," The Guardian, October 7, 2010.  Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/06/us-afghan-government-contact-haqqani.