– Pakistan Militants Bomb Multan, 100 Dead in Five Days (Bloomberg)
Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) — Militants bombed a fifth Pakistani city in as many days, the latest attack in a nationwide surge in violence that has killed about 100 people, half of them in the country’s economic powerhouse region of Punjab.
A bomb near the spy agency’s office in the Punjab city of Multan killed 12 people. Earlier, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said 40 people died and 100 were injured last night in bombings at a market in Lahore, the provincial capital. Pakistan’s key stock index fell 1.7 percent to its lowest in almost a month.
“The militants are going for civilian and security targets in a no-holds-barred manner and in a barbaric manner,” Mahmood Shah, a security analyst, said in a telephone interview from the northwestern city of Peshawar, where 10 people were killed in a bombing yesterday.
About 450 civilians and security officials have died in retaliatory bomb and gunfire attacks since Pakistan’s army began an offensive Oct. 17 against Taliban guerrillas in the tribal region of South Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has called Afghanistan and Pakistan the “epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al-Qaeda.”
Remember that there are only 100 Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan according to the US government:
President Barack Obama made the decision to send some 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan despite being informed that the country is now host to only 100 Al Qaeda fighters, ABC News reports.
A senior U.S. intelligence official told ABCNews.com the approximate estimate of 100 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan reflects the conclusion of American intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. The relatively small number was part of the intelligence passed on to the White House as President Obama conducted his deliberations.
ABC News estimates that, with the surge included, there will be a ratio of 1,000 US troops for every Al Qaeda member in the country. The cost of the war will work out to $300 million for every Al Qaeda fighter.
At least 43 killed in Pakistan bomb blasts
Bomb blasts have torn through two of Pakistan’s main cities overnight, killing at least 43 people and wounding more than 100 as the nation struggles to quell a worsening Taliban insurgency.
Two blasts devastated a busy market and engulfed it in flames killing at least 33 people in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, while in the north-west provincial capital of Peshawar a suicide bomber killed 10 people.
Attacks blamed on Islamist militants have surged this year as Pakistan presses military offensives against the Taliban across the north-west, under fierce US pressure to do more to destroy the extremists’ strongholds.
The popular Moon Market in the centre of eastern Lahore city was transformed into a scene of flames and rubble as night fell on Monday, when two bombs exploded 30 seconds apart outside a police station and a bank, officials said.
“We have recovered 33 dead bodies,” said doctor Rizwan Naseer, director general of the city rescue service, putting the injured toll at 95.
Lahore police chief Muhammad Pervez Rathore put the death toll slightly lower as bodies were still being pulled from the rubble.
“Twenty-seven people are confirmed dead but the death toll may rise. A total of 137 people were injured,” he said.
“The blasts knocked out the electricity. Fire engulfed the whole of the market. We fear there are still dead bodies inside.”
Cultural hub Lahore is a city of nearly 8 million people and is increasingly in the Taliban’s cross-hairs, with five previous militant strikes this year killing more than 70 people.
The city of Peshawar in the north-west has borne the brunt of Taliban attacks avenging the operations against them, and was struck again around midday Monday when a suicide bomber in a rickshaw approached a district courthouse.
“He got down and tried to enter the building but could not do so because of our security arrangements,” said Bashir Bilor, a senior provincial minister.
The bomber then detonated about six kilograms of explosives, killing 10 people including a policeman and wounding 44 others, said Zafar Iqbal, a senior doctor at Peshawar’s main Lady Reading hospital.
Local television showed images of blackened sandals lying in pools of water on a charred road, as smoke and flames filled the streets.
“I was sitting outside the court when I heard a deafening blast,” lawyer Rashid Hussain told AFP.
“I rushed to the spot and saw dead and injured laying on the ground. It was really horrible, there were body parts and the injured were crying for help.”
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani swiftly condemned both bombings, deploring “the loss of innocent lives”, a statement from his office said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack, but a fierce Islamist insurgency has killed more than 2,600 people in attacks mostly blamed on the Taliban in the last two-and-a-half years.
October and early November saw a fierce surge in attacks, including a huge suicide car bombing on October 28 that ripped through a Peshawar market killing 125 people in the worst attack in Pakistan in two years.
There had been a lull in attacks in recent weeks, then on Friday four suicide bombers stormed a mosque in Islamabad’s twin city Rawalpindi, killing 36 people in an onslaught of gunfire, grenades and explosions.
Pakistan’s military is engaged in offensives against Islamist fighters across much of the north-west including the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a region branded by Washington as the most dangerous place on Earth.
The tribal belt has been plagued by instability for years, exacerbated in 2001 when a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime from Afghanistan, sending hundreds of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants into the lawless region.
Officials said Pakistani troops killed 10 suspected insurgents in operations in northwest Swat Valley and the tribal district of Bajaur on Monday, as the military pressed on with its attempts to dismantle Taliban strongholds.
Washington and London are however pressuring Pakistan to do more to capture Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and prevent militants crossing the border and targeting foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Posted Tue Dec 8, 2009 6:21am AEDT
Updated Tue Dec 8, 2009 8:58am AEDT
Source: ABC News
The endless war on terror:
– Obama: ‘I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.’
Murray asserts that the primary motivation for US and British military involvement in central Asia has to do with large natural gas deposits in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As evidence, he points to the plans to build a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan that would allow Western oil companies to avoid Russia and Iran when transporting natural gas out of the region.
Murray alleged that in the late 1990s the Uzbek ambassador to the US met with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush to discuss a pipeline for the region, and out of that meeting came agreements that would see Texas-based Enron gain the rights to Uzbekistan’s natural gas deposits, while oil company Unocal worked on developing the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline.
“The consultant who was organizing this for Unocal was a certain Mr. Karzai, who is now president of Afghanistan,” Murray noted.
“There are designs of this pipeline, and if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, it’s about oil, it’s not about democracy.”
“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”
“I’m not much for this war. I’m not sure it’s worth all those lives lost,” said Sergeant Christian Richardson as we walked across corn fields that will soon be ploughed up to plant a spring crop of opium poppy.
Opium production rate has soared to 6,900 tons in Afghanistan in the past 10 years ‘despite‘ the presence of 100,000 foreign troops in the country for nearly eight years.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said on Wednesday that Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world’s opium that has devastating global consequences.
The UN report also noted that Afghanistan’s illegal opium production is worth 65 billion dollars.
The heroin and opium market feeds 15 million addicts, with Europe, Russia and Iran consuming half the supply, UNODC reported.
– Top US commander in Afghanistan: The Taliban have gained the upper hand:
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)