Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief – June 1, 2010
Al-Qaeda’s no. 3 commander killed in North Waziristan; gunmen storm hospital in Lahore; Punjabi Taliban linked with Friday’s mosque attacks, seven suspects arrested; retired army major released after being cleared of involvement in NY bomb attempt; US considering options for unilateral strike against militant groups in the tribal areas; US ups pressure on Pakistan to release more airline passenger information; military operations continue in Upper Orakzai; Interior Minister Rehman Malik talks of military operation in South Punjab; dozens arrested during search operations in Kohat; Chief of Army Staff General Kayani visits the Air Headquarters in Islamabad; two people gunned down in Quetta; twelve wounded in firing incident in Karachi; Pakistani court lifts ban on Facebook after website officials apologize, other sites still remain blocked.
Top Al-Qaeda leader killed
Al-Qaeda has confirmed the death of its third-ranking official and top commander in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid, in a message posted on jihadist websites on Monday. Yazid, an Egyptian national, was a key operative and co-founder of al-Qaeda who was responsible for much of the groups financing and operational planning. He was the operational chief for al-Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan. Yazid also served as a close adviser to Osama bin Laden and acted as a liaison to the Taliban and other extremist groups. US officials are unclear exactly when and where Yazid was killed but, according to the postings announcing his death, he and several members of his family were killed in a drone strike somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan within the last two weeks. A Pakistani security official added that Yazid was most likely killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan on the evening of May 21 in which an Arab was reported killed when a missile struck his home outside Miramshah.
Four gunmen disguised in police uniforms opened indiscriminate fire and took hostages at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore on Monday evening. At least five people were reported killed, including four police officers, and several others injured in what authorities believe was a failed attempt to either rescue or kill a militant being treated in the hospital who was arrested during Friday’s mosque attacks. One of the gunmen was wounded in exchange of fire with police while the other suspects managed to flee the scene.
Information obtained from one of the two militants captured following Friday’s deadly coordinated attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore indicates that the mission was ordered by Badar Mansoor, head of the Punjabi Taliban. Authorities also now believe that the attackers were trained in North Waziristan and stayed with the Tablighi Jamaat, a missionary group with links to Taliban and al-Qaeda, in Raiwind in the days before the assault. At least seven other individuals belonging to various militant groups have also been arrested in connection with the attack.
NY bombing investigation
The retired Pakistani army major arrested in connection with the failed bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square has been released from custody. The major, now identified as Adnan Ahmad, issued a statement on Saturday that he had been released and had been “cleared of any wrongdoing”, adding that he expected his brother, a computer engineer also arrested in connection with the attack, would also be released soon. Also on Saturday, army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas stated that Ahmad has previously been dismissed from military service after being found to have links with banned militant groups, although Abbas refused to provide any further details.
A report on Saturday revealed that the US military is evaluating potential options for a unilateral strike in the tribal areas of Pakistan in response to a potential successful terrorist attack on American soil with confirmed links to militant groups in the region. The potential strike would utilize air strikes in conjunction with special operations teams currently deployed across the border in Afghanistan. In addition, the US is also currently in negotiations with Pakistan to set up an additional joint intelligence center in Quetta, although one US official described the process as moving at “typical Pakistani glacial speed.”
- The US is increasing its pressure on Pakistan to provide broader airline passenger information in order to track terrorist travel patterns, an issue which a US official said on Sunday was now on the Obama administration’s “short list”. Although Pakistan already provides airline passenger information on those travelling to the US, it has consistently rejected US calls to provide information on Pakistanis travelling to other countries.
- Military offensives continued in Orakzai Agency throughout the weekend as fighter jets and helicopter gunships pounded Taliban positions in Upper Orakzai, killing dozens of militants. Among the dead was Ihsan Farooqi, the top commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Orakzai, who was reportedly killed in the bombardments on Monday. Two soldiers were also reported killed in a roadside bomb which struck their vehicle in Lower Orakzai on Saturday. (For bi-weekly updates on the ongoing military operations in Orakzai CLICK HERE)
- In a statement made in response to Friday’s attacks in Lahore, Interior Minister Rehman Malik was quoted saying that “there will be an operation in south Punjab on the pattern of tribal areas.” However, no concrete plans or statements have been made by other members of the Pakistani government and Punjab’s Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, criticized Malik’s remarks by pointing out that “army operations are required only where there are no-go areas and there is no such situation in any part of Punjab.”
On Monday, security forces conducted search operations in several villages and refugee camps in Kohat district, arresting approximately 43 people and seizing large quantities of arms, ammunition, liquor, and hashish. At least five of the arrested suspects were said to have been from Orakzai Agency.
On Monday, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani along with several other officers from the General Headquarters visited the Air Headquarters in Islamabad to attend a high-level briefing on the recently held Azm-e-Nau 3 joint military exercise. Kayani also met with his air force counterpart, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, and expressed his satisfaction with the wargame, which incorporated joint operations between the army and the air force. Suleman also reaffirmed the air force’s continued support for the army’s ongoing counter-insurgency operations throughout the country. Also on Monday, Kayani met with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to discuss the country’s overall security situation.
Two unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle shot and killed two people, including a prayer leader, in Quetta on Monday night. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and police have said an investigation is currently underway.
- At least twelve people were reported injured during a firing incident between two rival groups in Karachi’s Awami Colony on Monday.
A Pakistani court on Monday lifted the country’s ban on Facebook following an apology from some of the website’s top officials and assurances that an incident such as this would not occur in the future. Facebook was banned in Pakistan on May 19 due to a contest which appeared on the site that encouraged the drawing of the Prophet Mohammed, which is seen as blasphemous by many Muslims. Although the court has restored access to Facebook, hundreds of websites with “blasphemous content” still remain blocked to users in Pakistan.