Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief – October 18, 2010
NATO official says Osama bin Laden living in Pakistan’s Kurram agency; TTP commander Qari Hussain Mehsud reported killed in U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan; German terror suspect linked with 9/11 conspirator killed in drone strike; teenage suicide bomber killed by police in Lakki Marwat; foreign ministry defends Pakistan’s anti-militant efforts in the tribal areas.
- A senior NATO official has indicated that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are living in Pakistan in “relative comfort” and alleges they are being protected by both locals and members of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The official said that bin Laden has moved between Chitral district and the Kurram Valley over the past several years and indicated that bin Laden and Zawahiri were living in separate homes in the northwest tribal region, adding that “nobody in al-Qaeda is living in a cave.” The official also indicated that Taliban leader and founder Mullah Omar has shifted between Quetta and Karachi during the last few months. A spokesman from Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected the claims as a “baseless assertion”, saying that “the report has not been substantiated by any evidence and has just been put out to malign Pakistan.”
Reports emerged on Friday claiming that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) senior commander and “master trainer” of suicide bombers Qari Hussain Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan’s main town of Mir Ali on October 4. However, there are differing accounts on whether Hussain was injured during the attack, later succumbed to wounds sustained in the strike, or was killed instantly. TTP spokesman Azam Tariq phoned reporters on Sunday to deny the reports of Hussain’s death, saying that he “is alive and healthy and will soon contact the media” and that the reports of his death were merely part of a campaign to demoralize the Taliban.
A German terror suspect who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan last week was under investigation for his alleged collaboration with one of the 9/11 conspirators. The suspect, Naamen Meziche, reportedly received a phone call from Ramzi Binalshib, who is believed to have helped coordinate and finance the 9/11 attacks, on September 5, 2001. Meziche was a French citizen of Algerian descent and a German resident who was under investigation by German authorities since they uncovered telephone and email contacts between Meziche and suspected members of al-Qaeda shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks. However, a spokesman from the office of Germany’s Prosecutor General said that the investigation went nowhere and that Meziche was never charged with a crime.
At least six militants were killed during a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on Friday evening. Missiles fired from a drone reportedly struck a house in Aziz Khel. The attack came several hours after another strike which killed at least three militants in the Machi Khel area.
Five Pakistani soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters launched an overnight attack on the Talab check post in the Sara Rogha area of South Waziristan on Friday. Security forces also claim to have killed several militants during the clash. One soldier is still reported missing following the attack.
A teenage suicide bomber was killed on Monday when police opened fire on his explosive packed vehicle as it approached a checkpoint in the Jani Khel area of Lakki Marwat. Police officials said that officers shot at the vehicle when the boy tried to speed off after ignoring warnings to pull over. The jeep then exploded, killing the driver and wounding three nearby pedestrians. Police said that the attempted suicide bomber appeared to be approximately between 13 and 15 years old.
A government-run boys primary school in Peshawar district was blown up by suspected militants on Friday evening. An official from the Badaber police bomb disposal unit said that five kilograms of explosives were planted in the school building and caused a blast which destroyed two of the school’s rooms. The bomb disposal unit also defused a separate five kilogram bomb in the same area earlier that morning.
Mumbai Terror Attack
- U.S. government officials revealed on Saturday that two wives of David Headley, the man convicted of collaborating in the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, approached the FBI with information that Headley had expressed his “support for Pakistan in its bitter dispute with India over Kashmir.” However, the officials pointed out that the information provided by his wives was non-specific in nature and did not include any information which could be drawn to the terror plot in Mumbai.
- At least 33 people were killed in various incidents of political violence throughout Karachi over the weekend as the city held elections on Sunday to fill the provincial assembly seat left vacant by slain politician Raza Haider. Interior Minister Rehman Malik arrived in Karachi on Monday to discuss the city’s deteriorating security situation with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah as well as with other local and provincial security officials. Unofficial totals indicate that the candidate for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Saifuddin Khalid, won the election in a landslide.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry released a statement on Saturday defending the country’s handling of its military policies against extremist elements in the northwest tribal regions. The statement declared that there was “no lack of Pakistani resolve to fight terrorism” but also said that “any question relating to when, how and what is to be done in North Waziristan is based on judgment, keeping in mind our capacities, priorities and overall national interest.” The statement also points out that the Pakistani military currently has around 34,000 troops deployed in North Waziristan.
On Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani rejected Admiral Mike Mullen’s previous assertion that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had assured him that the military would soon launch an offensive against militants in North Waziristan. Although Gilani declared that “the government is committed to taking action wherever any terrorist threat exists” and acknowledged General Kayani’s authority as the country’s top military leader, he said that “it will be better if the political leadership is consulted once again before taking a fresh initiative.”
Pakistani government officials are reportedly dissatisfied with the country’s current bi-lateral arrangements with the U.S. The chief complaints include alleged “triple accounting” of U.S. economic assistance to Pakistan, which totals just under $1.5 billion a year, as well as claims that the U.S. has engaged in trade arrangements with countries in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East while Pakistan continues to be denied market access. One official complained that “U.S. actions and assurances do not match when it comes to Pakistan’s role and returns it should get.” The next round of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue is scheduled to take place in Washington later this week.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said during a visit to Brussels on Friday that Pakistan is willing to assist in facilitating talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Qureshi said that his country would play an active role in reconciliation talks and declared that it is “in Pakistan’s interest to have stability and peace in Afghanistan.” Another Pakistani official addressed recent U.S. efforts to organize a peace process with the Taliban, calling the move “a success” in light of previous U.S. opposition to the talks.
A large number of flood victims in Pakistan are going into debt to rebuild their homes due to the increased cost of construction materials following the country’s devastating flood disaster which left more than 1.9 million homes damaged or destroyed. Although the government has promised to hand out monetary compensation for post-flood reconstruction during the coming months, most flood victims say that they have not received any money from the government and that even if delivered the funds promised would fall far short of the money needed to rebuild. The U.N. has so far received only 20-percent of its $346 million request to provide emergency shelter for flood victims and many aid agencies are struggling with problems of both funding and manpower to quickly build a sufficient amount of shelters.
An article from the Associated Press examines the ongoing role of U.S. helicopters in Pakistan’s flood relief efforts. Army Brigadier General Michael Nagata says that the U.S. is ruthlessly focused on being here for the people of Pakistan” as Chinooks continue to ferry refugees and relief supplies in and out of flood affected areas.