Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief – September 1, 2010
Triple suicide blast in Lahore; airstrikes target Lashkar-e-Islam hideouts in Khyber Agency; Pakistani military officers depart U.S. in protest of “unwarranted” treatment after being pulled off of a United Airlines flight for additional security screening; Prime Minister Gilani says that floods will lead to decline in economic growth, rise in inflation in the coming year.
- A triple suicide bomb blast at a Shi’a religious procession in Lahore on Wednesday has killed at least 17 people and wounded more than 150 others. A top administrative official in the city said the death toll can be expected to rise as more details about the attack emerge.
As many as 60 people were reported killed, including both militants and civilians, when security forces launched a series of airstrikes targeting alleged militant hideouts belonging to Lashkar-e-Islam on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fighter jets bombed three different areas of Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley on Tuesday, killing around 40-45 people and destroying several hideouts, a training center, an FM radio station, and several vehicles which had allegedly been rigged with explosives to carry out an “imminent suicide attack” in Peshawar. Locals also reported that at least a dozen civilians, possible families of the militants, were also killed in the strikes. On Wednesday, at least 15 militants were killed helicopter gunships shelled militant positions in the border area between Orakzai and Kurram Agencies, destroying three hideouts.
A house in the Chenarak area of Kurram Agency came under attack from militants on Tuesday, sparking off an hour-long exchange of fire that left four people dead. Also on Tuesday, officials in Bajaur Agency reported that thirty militants, including three local commanders, laid down their weapons and surrendered to a tribal jirga in Mamund sub-district before being handed over to security forces. In Lakki Marwat, security forces arrested two suspected militants and destroyed the home of a third during the course of a search operation in the Kotka Burghoo Adamzai area.
A nine-man delegation of senior Pakistani military officials travelling to a defense conference at U.S. Central Command in Tampa departed the U.S. in protest on Tuesday after being pulled off of a United Airlines flight and being forced to undergo “unwarranted security checks” at Dulles airport on Sunday evening. The Pakistani officials were escorted from the aircraft when a passenger claimed that one of the officers told a stewardess it would be her “last mission,” though the Pakistani officials claim the officer in question, who was tired from a long day of travel, merely said something to the effect of “I hope this is my last flight.” Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said that the delegates were ordered to return to Pakistan in protest of their poor treatment, which they claim entailed being “treated like terrorists” while undergoing interrogation for several hours without being allowed to contact their embassy or their U.S. military hosts. Pentagon and Centcom officials have issued apologies to the Pakistani delegates.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Wednesday that economic growth in Pakistan can be expected to fall 2.5-percent while inflation will likely rise to as high 15 to 20-percent over the next year, with some estimates putting the total projected economic loss as high as $43 billion. Gilani also addressed concerns of “food security,” pointing out that one-fifth of Pakistan’s crops, livestock, and irrigation infrastructure has been destroyed by the floods. Gilani’s statements came after the World Food Program’s head administrator, Josette Sheeran, warned on Tuesday that Pakistan faces a “triple threat” of “hunger, homelessness, and desperation” in the wake of its country-wide flood disaster. Josette Sheeran said that the flooding, which has destroyed large swathes of farmland and left more than 8 million people dependent on aid for survival, has resulted in a situation which is “extremely critical.” As many as 500 people from a government run-relief camp in Thatta city blocked a nearby highway for three hours on Wednesday to protest the lack of sufficient food and shelter for flood victims.
A controversy has emerged over a reported “fake relief camp” which had been set up in Charsadda ahead of UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake’s visit to the site on Sunday. One official from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said that UNICEF “fooled the innocent people of Charsadda district” and has called for an investigation into the matter. UNICEF officials claim that the relief camp, which was dismantled after Lake’s visit and photo session, was “meant to provide services on mobile basis because affected people keep moving from one place to another and go wherever such facilities are easily available.”
An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross said that landmines and other unexploded ordnance dislodged by the flood waters continue to pose a serious risk to civilians with several cases of injuries and explosions in the past few weeks.
- Security forces killed three militants during a shootout in Swat on Tuesday after receiving information that several wanted militants were present in the Malam Jabba area of Charbagh sub-district. Two local commanders were also among the dead, according to officials.
- Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a religious procession in Karachi on Wednesday, wounding at least four people. The shooting occurred near the Empress Market area during a procession observing Yaum-i-Ali. Police claim to have already arrested three possible suspects in connection with the attack.
- Six men convicted of planning an assassination attempt targeting former president Pervez Musharraf were sentenced to life in prison by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Tuesday. The court found the men guilty of acquiring 900kg of explosives which they intended to use to in a suicide attack to kill Musharraf while he was at the Army House in Rawalpindi in 2008. Seven additional suspects were acquitted for lack of evidence.