Pakistan

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Iran Claims Arrest of 20 Jeish Al-Adl Members

Iran announced today that twenty members of Jeish Al-Adl have been arrested. The announcement, however, did not say when or where the arrests were made. Further, although the Fars News article announcing the arrests mentions the IRGC several times, it does not indicate whether they or Iranian border guards made the arrests. As you will recall, Jeish Al-Adl has been active in the Sistan and Bolochistan province of Iran and its border with the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Most significantly, an attack they carried out in October, 2013 killed 14 Iranian border guards and exacerbated ongoing border skirmishes between the two countries. Later, Jeish Al-Adl captured five borders guards from Iran and took them to Pakistan. After killing one, the group eventually released the other four.

From the Fars News article:

Iran announced on Tuesday that it has arrested 20 members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jeish al-Adl terrorist group.

“20 members of the Jeish al-Adl terrorist grouplet have been arrested in their hideout,” Iranian Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Ali Amiri told reporters in Tehran today.

Amiri, who is also the spokesman of the Interior Ministry, declined to provide any further detail about the exact location or date of the arrests.

Interestingly, after linking the group with al Qaeda in the opening of the article, Fars News goes on to link Sunni Wahhabism at its conclusion:

The terrorists who have reportedly been members of the outlawed Jeish Al-Adl radical Sunni Wahhabi movement fled into Pakistan after the operation in Iran’s Southeastern Sistan and Balouchestan province.

Because the announcement does not give a date for the arrests (perhaps this note from January 5 is a clue, although it too is nebulous on arrest dates), it seems reasonable to wonder about the timing of announcing them now. The dig at Wahhabism at the end of the article might be seen as a warning to Saudi Arabia not to increase support for exported extremism as a new king takes over.

However, the announcement also comes on the heels of the largest electricity outage that Pakistan has ever experienced. The blackout was triggered by an attack on transmission lines that has been claimed by the Baloch Republican Army, although the poor state of Pakistan’s power grid contributed greatly to the severity of the blackout. This group is distinct from Jeish Al-Adl is one of many groups fighting for an independent Balochistan. The attack on the power lines was about 250 miles from the border with Iran, if I am interpreting the reports and maps properly.

By mentioning the arrests now, Iran is increasing attention on the poor state of security in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Two days after the attack, repairs to the power line have not yet started due to poor security in the region. And now Iran announces that over at the border, a large group of terrorists, presumably using Pakistan as a sometimes harbor, has also been arrested.

I’ll keep an eye out for more developments along this very interesting stretch of border.

Rehman’s Jinnah Institute Causes Stir as Pakistani Federal Minister Calls Out Saudi Destabilization

Back when she was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman rankled the Obama Administration when she said in an interview with Christiane Amanpour that US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions “radicalize footsoldiers, tribes and entire villages“. Rehman’s time as Ambassador came to an end with the election of President Nawaz Sharif in 2013, and she has since moved on to reactivate a think tank she founded in 2010, the Jinnah Institute. In explaining the choice of name, the institute describes its core values of humanism and tolerance. Such values are quite at odds with current governance that brings Islamism to the forefront, even allowing laws banning blasphemy (with Rehman herself having been publicly accused of blasphemy).

The Jinnah Institute is holding a two day “Ideas Conclave”, and a speech delivered there by Pakistan’s Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination, Riaz Hussain Pirzada, is getting a lot of attention:

Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Hussain Pirzada has accused the Saudi government of creating instability across the Muslim world, including Pakistan, through distribution of money for promoting its ideology.

Addressing a two-day ‘Ideas Conclave’ organised by the “Jinnah Institute” think tank in Islamabad, the federal minister said ‘the time has come to stop the influx of Saudi money into Pakistan’.

Tying Saudi funding to promotion of its ideology seems to be quite a courageous move. Pakistan’s economy was in dire shape last year when a key $1.5 billion “loan” from Saudi Arabia helped to stop the fall in currency values. By pointing out the connection between Saudi funds and the promotion of Saudi ideology (which is clearly meant to be the extremist views held by terrorists) Pirzada seems to be saying that those funds come at too high a price.

Pirzada also admonished Pakistan’s government for the institution of military courts for trial of terrorists:

He also blasted his own government for approving military courts in the presence of an ‘independent and vibrant judiciary’ and said that military courts reflect ‘weak and coward leadership’.

“Such cowardly leadership has no right to stay in power,” Pirzada added.

It will be very interesting to see how Pirzada’s speech is received across the country. Emotions are running high with the fresh memory of the Peshawar school attack and the more recent attack in Paris. Extremists, on the other hand, are looking for support from those offended by renewed and expanded attention to cartoons portraying Mohammad in the global response to the Charlie Hebdo attack. By tying the promotion of extremism to Saudi money, Pirzada and the Jinnah Institute are calling for Pakistan to pay careful attention to the consequences of accepting Saudi funds at a time when opinions on the attendant issues are being reinforced on both sides.

Rehman and the Jinnah Institute face a difficult road if they are to move Pakistan in the direction they intend, but Prizada’s speech today seems well-timed and on point for at least beginning the discussion.

Islamic State Recruiter in Afghanistan Was “Substantially Exploited” at Guantanamo

Many outlets are reporting on the disclosure earlier this week that there appears to be active recruiting for Islamic State taking place in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Here is AP as carried by ABC News:

Afghan officials confirmed for the first time Monday that the extremist Islamic State group is active in the south, recruiting fighters, flying black flags and, according to some sources, even battling Taliban militants.

The sources, including an Afghan general and a provincial governor, said a man identified as Mullah Abdul Rauf was actively recruiting fighters for the group, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The article notes that the Taliban is not taking this development lightly and that there are reports that up to 20 people had died up to that point in skirmishes between the Taliban and those swearing allegiance to IS.

But Mullah Rauf is not just any random figure in Afghanistan. As the article notes, he was once a prisoner at Guantanamo.

In their profile of him this week, the Washington Post had this to say about Rauf:

Rauf is also known as Abdul Rauf Aliza and Maulvi Abdul Rauf Khadim. According to a military document released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, he turns 34 in February and was listed as detainee 108 at Guantanamo Bay. He was transferred to Afghanistan’s control in 2007.

The report on him released by WikiLeaks said he was associated with several known Taliban commanders, but claimed to be a low-level soldier. In interviews with U.S. officials, he was cooperative, but his responses were vague or inconsistent when asked about the Taliban leadership, according to the report. Nonetheless, Rauf was assessed not to be a threat, and was recommended for transfer out and continued detainment in another country.

That Wikileaks document on Rauf can also be read here at the New York Times. This particular paragraph in the report caught my eye:

Rauf exploited

The document from which this is taken is dated October 26, 2004. The parenthetic note from the analyst begins “Detainee is substantially exploited”. In the context of Guantanamo, the issue of prisoner exploitation is a very important topic. A groundbreaking post by Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye in 2011 provides crucial context by what this aside from the analyst means for Rauf’s detention: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Per Capita US Support for Pakistan’s Displaced Dwarfs Support for Syrian Refugees

John Kerry in a photo op with Pakistan's Army Chief Raheel Sharif. (ISPR photo)

John Kerry in a photo op with Pakistan’s Army Chief Raheel Sharif. (ISPR photo)


John Kerry visited Pakistan yesterday to provide the delayed announcement of $250 million from the US to aid displaced Pakistanis and rebuild infrastructure in the wake of the Zarb-e-Azb offensive against terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas. We get some detail from the New York Times for how the aid is to be used:

The $250 million in American assistance is to be used to provide food, shelter, medical support, and to restore basic services in Waziristan and the other Federally Administered Tribal Areas, so that the more than 700,000 people who have fled the fighting can return, American officials said. The aid would be redirected from assistance that had already been appropriated for Pakistan.

Of course, even with this repurposing of funds, the US is using it as enticement for what it really wants from Pakistan:

A senior State Department official said before the meetings here that Mr. Kerry would emphasize that Pakistan’s crackdown against militants should be extended to the Haqqani network, which has organized attacks in Afghanistan against American and local forces; to Afghan Taliban fighters who have sought refuge in Pakistan; and to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani group that is widely believed to be responsible for the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India.

“Part of the secretary’s core message will be to ensure that actions are met with a real and sustained effort to constrain the ability of the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Afghan Taliban, and other militants who pose a threat to regional stability and to direct U.S. interests,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in accordance with the agency’s procedure for briefing reporters.

To show its gratitude to the US, Pakistan celebrated by hanging seven prisoners during Kerry’s visit.

This level of support from the US for Pakistan’s displaced population puts US support for refugees from Syria’s civil war to shame. While the US pats itself loudly on the back by combining refugee support figures for 2012-2015 to claim a $3 billion commitment, when we look at what has been announced for 2015 (pdf, scroll to page 6), I see only $277 million. Although that is more money for Syrian refugees, there are almost ten times more refugees in the Syrian conflict than in Pakistan. The story above cites 700,000 displaced by current offensive and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre puts the overall figure for Pakistan at around 1.15 million. By comparison, the same group notes 7.6 million internally displaced Syrians and 2.8 million refugees from Syria in surrounding nations. The total is very nearly half of Syria’s 21.9 million total population.

If the US provided the same per capita support to Syrian refugees in 2015 as it has pledged for Pakistan, the $250 million for 1.1 million Pakistani refugees would become approximately $2.4 billion. Given the dire conditions in Syrian refugee camps this winter, such a commitment would be vital, but don’t look for it anytime soon.

Pakistan’s National Assembly, Senate Pass Bills Establishing Military Courts

On Sunday, Dawn’s editors knew that Pakistan’s lawmakers would enact the bills needed to establish military courts and published a stern condemnation of the move in an editorial with the telling title “A Sad Day”:

In the end, our political leadership proved unable to defend the constitutional and democratic roots of the system or resist the generals’ demands.

Pakistan is to have military courts once again. To establish them the politicians have agreed to distort the principle of separation of powers, smash the edifice of rights upon which the Constitution is built and essentially give up on fixing decrepit state institutions.

The editors pointed out how the efforts to establish the military courts could have been put to better use:

Had the same time and effort spent on winning consensus for military courts gone into urgent reforms and administrative steps to fix the criminal justice structure, the existing system could have been brought into some semblance of shape to deal with terrorism.

Sadly, the political leadership has abdicated its democratic responsibilities. Surrender perhaps comes easily.

For a country that has been beset by repeated military coups, the Dawn editors rightly note the risk in granting more powers to the military.

The votes on the bills were unanimous among those present and voting today, but Imran Khan’s PTI party and religious parties abstained:

The National Assembly and Senate on Tuesday passed the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015 and Pakistan Army Act 1952 (Amendment) Bill 2015.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed with 247 votes – 14 more than the required two-third majority in the NA, and 78 votes out of 104 were passed in the Senate.

The amendment – aimed to set up special courts to try militants – was not opposed by any member present inside the house. Lawmakers from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Sheikh Rasheed abstained from voting – in both the NA and the Senate.

Each clause of the bill was voted for separately. The bill is now expected to be signed into law by the president this week.

This move by Pakistan, coming in the wake of the devastating Taliban attack on a military school in Peshawar, is drawing obvious comparisons to US moves to establish military commissions at Guantanamo for trying terrorism suspects. Sadly, Pakistan has been just as reckless in making the move as the US was. Had they taken the time for a review of the outcome of US military commissions, they would have found (pdf) that while about 500 suspects in terrorism trials have been convicted in US federal criminal courts, the vaunted military commissions have yielded only 8 convictions since 9/11. On the occasion of the conviction in federal court last year of Osama bin Laden’s son in law, Lyle Denniston had this to say:

As long ago as 1866, just after the Civil War, the Constitution stood for the principle that, if the civilian courts were open and functioning during wartime, trials of civilians charged with crimes of war should be tried in those courts, not in military tribunals. That was the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Ex parte Milligan.

The Court’s lead opinion back then said: “No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false.”

[We can separately note that Denniston’s quote from Ex parte Milligan seems to apply just as well to the excuses brought forth in favor of torture as they do for the establishment of military commissions.]

Perhaps the only good aspect of Pakistan’s move to establish military courts is that the bills carry a two year sunset provision. Sadly, though, given the current cowardly status of Pakistan’s lawmakers, it would not be surprising for regular two year “extensions” of the laws to continue in perpetuity. Just like our endless extensions of unconstitutional wiretapping under FISA.

Attack at Saudi-Iraq Border Kills Three Saudi Guards

Reuters reports the location of the attack as near the Suweif border station, about 40 km from Arar, Saudi Arabia and 80 km from al-Nukhayb, Iraq (marked by red pin).

Reuters reports the location of the attack as near the Suweif border station, about 40 km from Arar, Saudi Arabia and 80 km from al-Nukhayb, Iraq (marked by red pin), putting the attack roughly where the road connecting them crosses the border.

I’ve long followed events along the porous Pakistan-Iran border area, as there are often events taking place there that have very different descriptions on opposite sides of the border. As recently as December 28, three Iranian IRGC members were killed in the area. This is a departure from the usual pattern, where border guards instead of IRGC are the usual targets. Iran retaliated by firing mortars over the border into Pakistan, who claimed as many as 7 injuries from the attack. Iran is also reporting today that they have arrested a team of “terrorists” south of where the December event took place.

By contrast, even though it as remote as the Iran-Pakistan border, the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border is more heavily fortified and patrolled on the Saudi side. That makes today’s report of three Saudi guards being killed in an attack near a border crossing with Iraq stand out:

Saudi Arabia’s border with Iraq, defended by earth barriers and fences and monitored by camera and radar, has been attacked in the past by mortar bombs fired from a distance, but more targeted strikes are rare.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault, which hit a remote desert area next to Iraq’s Anbar province where both the Islamic State militant group and Shi’ite Muslim militias close to Riyadh’s foe Iran operate.

/snip/

Monday’s attackers, described by the ministry only as “terrorist elements”, shot at a border patrol near Arar and when security officers responded, one of the attackers was captured and detonated an explosives belt, the ministry statement on state media said.

One of those killed was a senior officer, ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Turki told Reuters. Local media, including al-Arabiya television, named the dead officer as General Oudah al-Belawi, the head of a border sector. A third officer was wounded, the ministry said.

The Reuters article quoted above [the quote above is from an earlier version of the article which has since been updated] relied on a single expert to blame the attack on ISIS based on the presence of a suicide bomber.

AP, on the other hand, assigned no blame, but noted (as did Reuters), that Saudi Arabia has joined the fight against ISIS in Syria.

It will be interesting to see whether any group claims responsibility for the attack and whether there are additional attacks along the Saudi-Iraq border. For now, I’d place about as much authority on the pronouncement that the presence of a suicide bomber means the attack came from ISIS as I do on Iran’s latest “documentation” that the US is controlling ISIS operations out of the embassy in Baghdad.

 

Broad Response By Pakistan to Peshawar School Attack

Pakistan's army chief  General Raheel Sharif meeting with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani on December 17 to discuss cooperation in fighting terror.

Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif meeting with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on December 17 to discuss cooperation in fighting terror. (ISPR photo)


The deadly attack by Pakistan’s Taliban, the TTP, against a school in Peshawar on Tuesday has prompted a huge and sweeping response in Pakistan and beyond. Perhaps most significantly, Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, went to Kabul the very next day:

General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army staff today visited Afghanistan and held separate meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and General John F Campbell, ISAF commander. Matters related to security situation along Pak-Afghan border region came under discussion. Vital elements of intelligence were shared with concerned authorities, with regard to Peshawar incident. Afghan President assured General Raheel Sharif that Afghan soil will not be allowed for terrorists activities against Pakistan and any signature found in this regard will be immediately eliminated.

COAS also assured Afghan President full support to the Unity government in all spheres including joint efforts against terrorists.

ISAF commander also assured of its complete support in eliminating terrorist in his area of responsibility.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been at odds about Taliban factions within each country using it as a haven from which to attack the other. ToloNews reports on the potential for the Peshawar attack to change this relationship:

Following his visit, General Sharif said that the Afghan president and ISAF commander assured him that the Taliban would not be allowed to use Afghan soil as a launching pad for attacks on Pakistan, exposing the simmering distrust that remains between the sides after 13 years of war. The general’s comments come after Afghan and NATO coalition leaders have for years pleaded with the Pakistani government to do more to keep the Taliban from using the tribal belt as a safe haven for recruiting fighters and launching attacks into Afghanistan.

But after the Tuesday’s deadly attack by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on a military-run school in Peshawar, it is possible the Pakistani armed forces and civilian government in Islamabad are more inclined to crack down on terrorism and seek help in doing so than ever before. A number of security analysts have encouraged that view, arguing that Afghanistan and Pakistan should come together and establish a joint counter-terrorism task force.

Other steps that Pakistan has taken have been swift. Military courts for trial of terrorism suspects are being established and Pakistan’s moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism offenses has been lifted. Six executions are expected within the next 24 hours. In choosing to move forward with military courts, I guess Pakistan is overlooking the horrible track record in the US for military commissions at Guantanamo when compared to trying terror suspects in criminal court.

Pakistan’s military action against terrorists launched in June, Zarb-e-Azb, is being expanded, with attacks now taking place outside the tribal areas. But it is not just Pakistan’s military that is expanding its activity outside the tribal area. A drone strike today took place right on the Afghan border with Pakistan, just outside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. US drone strikes in Pakistan have been almost exclusively in the tribal region, so an attack right on the border of another province is rare. Dawn reports that the attack targeted those believed to be responsible for the Peshawar attack: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Pakistan’s Taliban Attacks Peshawar School: More Than 130 Killed

It seems that various extremist groups are in a demented contest to see who can commit the biggest atrocity. Boko Haram shocked the world with their kidnapping of school girls and claims that they had married the girls. ISIS surged into the lead with their professionally produced videos of beheadings of prisoners. But for calculated moves carrying both a high level of carnage and huge symbolism, today’s attack on Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) reaches new levels of sickness.

Pakistan’s military has been conducting the Zarb e-Azb campaign against terrorist groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas since June. The choice of a school with an army affiliation, then, is a clear message that the attack is in response to the ongoing military campaign. Further, December 16 is the anniversary of the surrender of Pakistan’s military to India in 1971, creating Bangladesh from East Pakistan. With the choice of this date, the TTP is aiming for further humiliation of Pakistan’s military.

Some information on the attack is filtering out. From the New York Times:

The siege started Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. when at least five to six heavily armed Taliban gunmen entered Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. According to initial reports, the gunmen opened fire on students and have taken dozens of them as hostages. Some students managed to escape the school compound, the local news media reported.

The gunmen entered after scaling a wall at the rear of the main school building. They opened fire and took dozens of students hostage in the main auditorium of the building, the news media reported.

Live updates on developments are being provided here by Dawn.

The attack seems to be unifying Pakistan at a time when political divisions have been deepening. Imran Khan (whose PTI party governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) has postponed his next large demonstration in the series of actions in which he has been calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down.

As the Express Tribune points out, the TTP has a history of attacks on education, with the most famous previous attack being that on Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai in 2012. Undaunted, Malala has already denounced today’s attack. And the TTP, along with other extremist groups, have been attacking health care workers administering polio vaccines, killing one as recently as last week and four in late November.

It’s really hard to see how extremist groups think that they are helping their cause when they commit such huge crimes against humanity.

Study: Fighting Terrorism With Military Almost Never Works

Remember when the George W. Bush campaign and the Republican Party was attacking John Kerry during the 2004 campaign over comments where they construed as him saying that terrorism is a police matter? Here’s a refresher:

Bush campaign Chairman Marc Racicot, in an appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition,” interpreted Kerry’s remarks as saying “that the war on terrorism is like a nuisance. He equated it to prostitution and gambling, a nuisance activity. You know, quite frankly, I just don’t think he has the right view of the world. It’s a pre-9/11 view of the world.”

Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” used similar language.

“Terrorism is not a law enforcement matter, as John Kerry repeatedly says. Terrorist activities are not like gambling. Terrorist activities are not like prostitution. And this demonstrates a disconcerting pre-September 11 mindset that will not make our country safer. And that is what we see relative to winning the war on terror and relative to Iraq.”

The Institute for Economics and Peace, a nonpartisan think tank in Australia, just issued its latest Global Terrorism Index. Buried deep in the report (pdf), on page 56, is this figure in which they summarize data from a RAND Corporation report:

end

The figure summarizes RAND Corporation findings from a study of 40 years of data on terrorist groups and how the terror activities of those groups come to an end. Despite the gargantuan US Great War on Terror with its trillions of dollars wasted and hundreds of thousands of people killed, only seven percent of the time when a terrorist group ends its activities is that due to them being defeated militarily. In fact, since they cease ten percent of the time due to achieving their goals, it can be argued that a military approach alone makes it more likely the terrorists will win than lose. The leading way for terrorist groups to cease their activities is for them to become a part of the political process, at forty-three percent. And gosh, it turns out that Kerry was correct, because police action (which in this study means “policing and intelligence agencies breaking up the group and either arresting or killing key members”) was the cause forty percent of the time when terrorist groups stop using terror. Oh, and adding further to the importance of policing, the report also states elsewhere that homicide accounts for forty times more deaths globally than terrorism.

As we saw in a previous report on the Global Terrorism Index, once again the countries in which the US GWOT is most active are those that have the worst ratings for terrorism. The list is headed by Iraq, with Afghanistan in the second position, Pakistan third and Syria fifth.

Not only are the countries where the US is actively militarily at the top of the index, the timeline of terror attacks provides a very strong correlation for the jump in global terror activity being triggered by the US invasion of Iraq in 2003:

timeline

The timeline seems to suggest that terror attacks were going back down after the 9/11 large event, but then took off after the US invaded Iraq.

Not only should the US learn from this report that the “military only” approach to terrorism is dead wrong, but there are warnings that the US should heed about domestic conditions as well. Here is how the study assesses the risk for future terrorism events:

Using terrorist incidents and events data dating back to 1970 and comparing it to over 5,000 socio-economic, political and conflict indicators, three groups of factors related to terrorist activity have been identified. Countries that are weak on these factors and do not have high levels of terrorism are assessed as being at risk.

The correlations section of this report details the most significant socio-economic correlates with terrorism. There are three groups of factors:

    Social hostilities between different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups, lack of intergroup cohesion and group grievances.
    Measures of state repression such as extrajudicial killings, political terror and gross human rights abuses.
    Other forms of violence such violent crime, organised conflict deaths and violent demonstrations.

It sure sounds to me like a lot those boxes get checked when we start talking about what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri.

Suicide Bomber Strikes Near Pakistan-India Flag-Lowering Border Site

The video above shows the elaborate ceremony that takes place daily at the Wagah border crossing just outside the Pakistani city of Lahore. On Sunday evening, a suicide bomber who was stopped at a checkpoint just outside the ceremonial site detonated his vest as Pakistanis were returning from the flag-lowering. The death toll now stands near 60 and over 100 were injured. Because thousands attend this ceremony every day, the crowds are quite dense as they leave the site. From the New York Times:

Spectators viewing the ceremony have to pass through two security checkpoints before entering the site.

Pakistani officials said the suicide bomber detonated the explosives in front of a line of shops 500 to 600 yards from the main site, at a time when security was lax after the flag-lowering ceremony had concluded.

Attendance was high on Sunday because it was a holiday, and many visitors had come from other towns and cities

At least two militant groups have claimed responsibility:

The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar splinter group of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the Wagah border attack as its spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, speaking to Dawn on telephone from Afghanistan, said it was carried out by one of their men.

When asked if it was more than one suicide bomber, he said one man carried out the attack.

“We will continue such attacks in the future,” Ehsan said.

“Some other groups have claimed responsibility of this attack, but these claims are baseless. We will soon release the video of this attack,” he said.

“This attack is revenge for the killing of innocent people in North Waziristan,” the banned militant group’s spokesman said.

Earlier Jundullah, another outlawed group which was behind a suicide bombing that killed at least 78 Christians at a church in Peshawar last September, had also claimed responsibility for the Wagah border attack.

The spokesman of the splinter group of the TTP Ahmed Marwat via telephone said that the attack is a reaction to military operation Zarb-i-Azb and Waziristan operation.

Jundullah and the much larger Pakistani Taliban are among loosely aligned militant groups that frequently share personnel, tactics and agendas. Claims for specific incidents are often hard to verify.

Note that this Jundallah group is not the same one that carries out attacks on the Iran-Pakistan border.

Reuters reports that intelligence agencies for Pakistan and India had warning that an attack was coming and increased security measures prevented the bomber getting to the actual site of the flag-lowering:

“It appears the bomber wanted to target ground zero where Pakistan and India border officials stand together to perform the flag ceremony but he could not enter due to tight security on the last gate,” a Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters.

“Had he managed to reach the place, there would have been the worst scenario at both sides.”

If successful, such an attack would likely have severely tested ties between India and Pakistan, already frayed after weeks of shelling further along the border killed 17 people in October.

Unrest is not very common in Lahore. It was, however, the scene of the Raymond Davis fiasco. I’ve long been of the opinion that Davis served as a recruiter both in the US and in Pakistan, so it would be irresponsible not to wonder whether any of his recruits had a hand in Sunday’s event.

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bmaz @KellyFlood3 I have come to accept that my dog will be more important in internet life, despite a decade or more, than I will. Oh well!
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bmaz @emptywheel A sterling, though not quite gold, point you make.
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bmaz RT @ColMorrisDavis: @bmaz I agree.
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emptywheel @HinaShamsi In retrospect, writing GWOT Finding to permit CIA to do whatever they want w/detainees, including torture might not @Krhawkins5
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