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Apr 22nd, 2009

Taliban Advance Near Pakistan’s Capital

U.S. warns area could become sanctioned base for al-Qaida

Image: Destroyed school in Mingora, Pakistan
A student on the site of a destroyed school building on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 in Mingora, capital of Pakistan’s troubled Swat valley, now under Taliban control. (Photo credit: B. K. Bangash / AP)

April 22, 2009

ISLAMABAD — Taliban militants have extended their grip in northwestern Pakistan, pushing out from a valley where the government has agreed to impose Islamic law and patrolling villages as close as 60 miles from the capital.

Police and officials appear to have fled as armed militants also broadcast radio sermons and spread fear in Buner district, just 60 miles from Islamabad, officials and witnesses said Wednesday.

Pakistan’s president signed off on the peace pact last week in hopes of calming Swat, where some two years of clashes between the Taliban and security forces have killed hundreds and displaced up to a third of the one-time tourist haven’s 1.5 million residents.

Critics, including in Washington, have warned that the valley could become an officially sanctioned base for allies of al-Qaida — and that it may be just the first domino in nuclear-armed Pakistan to fall to the Taliban.

“The activities in the Swat do concern us. We’re keeping an eye on it, and are working daily with the Pakistan military,” Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker told Pentagon reporters in a 35-minute videoconference call from Afghanistan. …

Militants take over shrine

In recent days, the Swat militants have set their sights on Buner, a district just south of the valley, sparking at least one major clash with residents. The moves indicate the militants want to expand their presence beyond Swat to other parts of Malakand at the very least, under the guise of enforcing Islamic law. …

The militants in Buner also are using radio airwaves to broadcast sermons about Islam, and have occupied the homes of some prominent landowners, said a police official who insisted on anonymity because he was afraid of retaliation. He said the militants have also warned barbers to stop shaving men’s beards and stores to stop selling music and movies. …

The militants have established a major base in the village of Sultanwas and have set up positions in the nearby hills, the police official said. Militants also have taken over the shrine of a famed Sufi saint known as Pir Baba, he said. …

Since the provincial government agreed to the deal in February, Taliban fighters had adopted a lower profile and stopped openly displaying weapons in Swat as part of a cease-fire.

Armed patrols roam

But on Tuesday, upon the radio-broadcast orders of Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah, the militants began roaming parts of the valley with rifles and other weapons. An AP reporter saw the patrols in Mingora, the valley’s main city.

Residents from nearby towns in Swat said militants were setting up checkpoints on several roads. The residents requested anonymity out of fear for their lives.

Fazlullah ordered his fighters to withdraw again in a broadcast on Wednesday. He didn’t explain why.

Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan could not be reached for comment.

Khan said recently that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other militants aiming to oust the U.S. from Afghanistan would be welcome and protected in Swat — a statement the government condemned.

He also said the militants want to see all of Pakistan under Islamic law — a cry echoed by several other Islamist firebrands. …


4/23/09 Update

Taliban Pushing Toward Capital in Pakistan

Man tries to extinguish fire after fuel trucks were set aflame in northwestern city of Peshawar
Pakistani forces and NATO terminal attacked in region
crucial to U.S. (Photo credit: Mohammad Sajjad / AP)


5/12/09 Update

Shaky Pakistan is seen as target of Al Qaeda plots

Image: Supporters of a Pakistani religious group Jamaat-e-Islami
Supporters of a Pakistani religious group Jamaat-e-Islami burn an effigy of President Barack Obama on Sunday during a rally in Lahore against suspected U.S. drone attacks in tribal areas. (Photo credit: K. M. Chaudary / AP)

Pakistan: 1.3 million flee full-scale assault

Image: Family flees Swat Valley
A family flees fighting in the Swat Valley on Tuesday, May 12, 2009. (Photo credit: Faisal Mahmood / Reuters)

Pakistan, U.S. confront refugee problem


Tensions Rise in Iraq’s Mosul Amid Kurdish Boycott

April 22, 2009

MOSUL — Tensions between Kurds and Sunni Arabs are rising in Iraq’s volatile northern city of Mosul and the surrounding province following local elections in January which saw Sunni representation jump dramatically.

Kurdish-led provincial council members and Kurdish-run towns have vowed to boycott the now Sunni-dominated provincial council, some going as far as to say they want to join the nearby semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

There is already underlying discord between Baghdad and Arbil, the autonomous Kurdish capital, over the division of oil wealth and control of northern towns, especially the oil-rich and ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

On Wednesday in Zummar, one of the Kurdish towns that has joined the boycott against the provincial council, a suicide car bomber attacked a checkpoint run by Kurdish Peshmerga forces while a Peshmerga commander survived a separate car bomb attack, police said. …

While violence has fallen sharply across most of Iraq, al Qaeda and other insurgents have made a stand in Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, and the surrounding Nineveh province, where Arabs, minority Kurds and Christians and others make for an uneasy mix.

Mosul, and similarly mixed Diyala province, are the two areas where the U.S. forces that invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein still conduct major combat operations.

Analysts and U.S. officials had hoped that provincial elections in January would ease some of the tensions in Mosul. …

In Zummar on Wednesday, an attacker tried to ram a car packed with explosives into a Kurdish checkpoint. Police sources said one of the Kurdish soldiers opened fire at the car and it detonated before reaching its target.

In a separate incident, also in Zummar, a Kurdish Peshmerga commander escaped death when a car bomb exploded near his convoy. No one was hurt in the attack, police said.


Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 5 in Iraq Mosque

April 22, 2009

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest inside a mosque in central Iraq on Wednesday, killing at least five people and wounding 15, police said.

The attack took place at a Sunni Muslim mosque in the town of Dhuluiya, 45 miles north of Baghdad, police in Tikrit said. Initial reports said the attack injured Nadhim al-Jubouri, a leader of a local armed guard unit, but police later said he was not among those injured.

An official at a security forces command center in Tikrit said the bomber was a young man of around 15 to 16 years old.

The violence in Iraq unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003 has eased from the worst of the sectarian bloodletting in 2006-2007.

But suicide bombings and other attacks continue to jar Iraq’s fragile calm, especially in ethnically mixed areas, even as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2011.

On Monday, a suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform killed four policemen near a local government headquarters in northeastern Diyala province. Eight U.S. soldiers were wounded.

Some say violence could surge anew as rival political and armed groups position themselves ahead of anticipated national elections slated for late this year.

The U.S.-backed mainly Sunni guard units, known as Sons of Iraq or Awakening Councils, are credited with helping drive al Qaeda militants out of much of Iraq since they sprang up in western Anbar province in 2006.

But the relationship of the guards, many of them former insurgents themselves, with the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad has often been strained.


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – A U.S. soldier died after being injured during a patrol in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

DHULUIYA – A suicide bomber killed at least five people inside a mosque in Dhuluiya, 45 miles north of Baghdad, also wounding 15 people, police said.

MOSUL – A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol in a crowded market wounded eight people, including a policeman, in central Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

NEAR MOSUL – A Kurdish Peshmerga leader escaped death when a bomb in a parked car exploded near his convoy in the small town of Zummar, northwest of Mosul, police said. No casualties were reported.

NEAR MOSUL – Also in Zummar, a suicide car bomber attacked a security checkpoint run by Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Police sources in Mosul said one of the Kurdish soldiers opened fire at the car and it detonated before reaching its target.

KIRKUK – Gunmen in a car kidnapped a judge while he was heading to his office in southwestern Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad, police brigadier general Sarhat Qader said.

MOSUL – A suicide car bomber on Tuesday attacked a military checkpoint and seriously wounded two soldiers in eastern Mosul, police said.

BAGHDAD – A bomb on Tuesday killed a policeman and wounded three others when it struck their patrol in the Amiriya district of western Baghdad, police said.

3 Responses to “Taliban Advance on Islamabad”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Taliban, Al-Qaida on the Move Says:

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