News from South Asia, Friday 24th March 2013

Pakistan:

Dawn: Britain has scrambled fighter jets to escort a Pakistani International Airlines plane from Lahore after it was diverted from Manchester. “Flight PK709 from the city of Lahore in Pakistan was due to land at Manchester Airport in north west England at 1230 GMT.

The plane was diverted to Stansted airport, east of central London, according to a Manchester Airport spokesman.

Essex Police, who are responsible for the area where Stansted is located, said an incident had occurred on a flight and they were investigating.

The news comes two days after a soldier was hacked to death on a London street in an incident the government are treating as a terrorist incident.”

ABC News: A suicide bomber has killed three people in Peshawar while attempting to target Afghan religious leader Haji Hayatullah. “The leader, Haji Hayatullah, was not harmed in the attack in Peshawar city because he was in a nearby mosque attending Friday prayers.

Police officer Riaz Ali Shah says Hayatullah’s driver and guard were killed. Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan says a passerby was also killed and two others were wounded.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.”

CNN: Pakistan has welcomed Barack Obama’s stance on force in the war on terrorism. “Obama, who outlined his counterterrorism policy in a speech Thursday, called ‘the use of force in fighting’ terrorism as ‘part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.’

The United States for years has targeted militants in Pakistan with drone attacks. Obama said drone strikes, denounced by many because they have killed civilians, must be used with more temperance, but they remain a necessary tool to take on terrorists. Pakistan, which describes itself as a front-line state in the fight against terrorism, says the strikes have been counter-productive.

In his speech, Obama said thousands of Pakistani soldiers have sacrificed their lives in the fight against terrorism. He said the United States is rebuilding its relationship with Pakistan after citizens criticized the U.S. raid in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.”

Afghanistan:

Huffington Post: A suicide bomber has self-detonated in Kabul. “There were no immediate reports of casualties and details were sketchy. The explosion was followed by a gun battle that was still continuing an hour after the blast in the central district.

Police officer Latif Khan, director of the city’s District 4, said the explosion was a suicide attack but could give no further information on the ensuing shooting.

The exact target of the attack was unclear. The explosion took place near a hospital that services the National Security Directorate, the state intelligence agency.

The blast collapsed a building wall, but it was not clear if there were any casualties. Police quickly cordoned off the area, which also houses buildings used by several international aid agencies.”

India:

BBC News: Three soldiers have been killed by suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in the Pulwama district of Indian-administered Kashmir.

“An army spokesman said the attacks came as troops launched an anti-insurgency operation in the Tral area, 40km (25 miles) from Srinagar. The soldiers came under fire from militants hiding in a nearby forest. Kashmir has seen an armed insurgency against Indian rule since 1989, but violence has waned in recent months. …Thursday’s clash took place in Hurdmeer village, army spokesman Lt-Col Naresh Vig told the BBC. Extra security forces had been sent to the area to track down the militants, he said.

On Thursday, police said they had killed a suspected militant in a gunfight. Hilal Molvi, a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, was wanted in connection with the killing of several civilians in the Pattan and Sopore areas of north Kashmir, they said.”

India Today: India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has “established a clear link” between Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir-based terror outfits circulating fake Indian currency to fund terrorist activities in India.

“…The chargesheet states that ‘Fake Indian currency is being used being used by terrorist organisations to damage the economy of India and finance terrorist activities of their cadre operating in India.’

While the chargesheet stops short of naming Pakistan, sources said the trail of counterfeit currency from the neighbour country in West Bengal and then in India has been well-established. ‘Through the Bangladesh border, it (fake Indian currency) was being pumped into India from West Bengal. It was being funnelled via Delhi to terror groups like Hizbul Mujahideen,” an officer from NIA said. Sources said selling of fake currency in return for genuine currency gives huge returns, which can be used by terror organisations.”

The Times of India: Security agencies are planning to “take the fight right to the doorstep of Maoists” by setting up police stations and outposts in areas heavily used as bases by the rebels.

“After tasting success with the Kanchala encounter as well as Sadbhavana yatra, emboldened security agencies are now chalking out plans to take the fight right to the doorstep of Maoists by setting up police outposts in the Naxal heartland to keep a close watch on their activities.

As part of this strategy, the security agencies are planning to set up eight police stations or outposts with a strong security cover in G K Veedhi and Chintapalli mandals. The Visakahapatnam rural police has mooted plans to set up around seven police stations or outposts in the heavily Maoist infested GK Veedhi mandal alone, with one police station proposed in Chintapalli, sources said.”

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