News from South Asia, Tuesday 21st May 2013

Pakistan:

The Record: Militants opened fire on a polio vaccination team in FATA, killing one soldier. “Armed men hiding in a field fired at the health workers as they were travelling through Bajaur tribal district, which borders Afghanistan. A paramilitary soldier who had been guarding the team was killed, and the armed men fled.

‘It was hit and run. The militants made good on their escape,’ said a senior tribal official in the district, who spoke by telephone on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the news media.”

Tribune: The CIA will continue drone strikes under the new Pakistani prime ministership of Nawaz Sharif. “US drone strikes in Pakistan would continue to be conducted by the CIA for the time-being to keep the program covert and maintain deniability for both the United States and Pakistan, several US government sources said on Monday.

The sources added that US President Barack Obama’s administration has decided to give the Pentagon control of some drone operations against terrorism suspects overseas that are currently run by the CIA.

Four US government sources told Reuters that the decision had been made to shift the CIA’s drone operations to the Pentagon, and some of them said it would occur in stages.”

Analysis: International Crisis Group: The ICG outlines the myths and realities of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Afghanistan:

Reuters: Coordinated Taliban attacks in southern Afghanistan have killed six policemen. “Dozens of Taliban insurgents launched coordinated attacks on Afghan checkpoints in the south on Tuesday, killing at least six Afghan policemen, officials said, adding that a clash was going on.

Seven policemen were wounded in the attack in Helmand province, provincial governor spokesman Omar Zwak said. It was the latest Taliban assault this year involving many militants attacking Afghan forces.

Concern is mounting over how the 352,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces will cope after most foreign NATO-led combat troops leave by the end of next year.”

New York Times: ISAF are playing down reports of a major ongoing battle in Helmand. “The Afghan government portrayed the fighting in the Sangin district of Helmand Province, which began Monday, as a major victory for its forces, with officials describing a massive Taliban effort to overrun the area. Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, put the number of attackers at 1,000 and said Arab and Chechen insurgents — that is, Al Qaeda members — were fighting alongside the Taliban.

The Taliban also claimed to be engaged in a broad assault on Sangin, saying in a text message to reporters that insurgents had overrun three police posts and were close to taking more.

The coalition, though, was far more circumspect about the scale of the fighting. It said the Taliban force totaled 80 to 100 fighters and managed to launch only sporadic attacks on outlying police posts in the district.”

India:

The Indian Express: Police in Gadchiroli have killed a Naxalite during an anti-Naxal operation.

“An alleged Maoist cadre was killed in an encounter near Hetalkasa village in Malewada area of Kurkheda tahsil in north Gadchiroli on Sundaynight.

‘Based on intelligence inputs about a gathering of Naxal cadres, police pressed into an operation. Around 5.30 pm, a group of 50-60 Naxals opened fire at the police patrol, forcing the police to retaliate. With the police increasing pressure, the Naxals ran away. A search on the spot revealed a dead body of a Naxal and a large quantity of ammunition and arms,’ a statement issued by the Gadchiroli police said.”

The Times of India: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has ordered an inquiry into the recent encounter in the state of Chhattisgarh where eight people were killed by security personnel, with locals alleging that the operation was “aimed at targeting innocent villagers.”

“The force, which led the operation that began on May 17, has instructed a deputy inspector general (DIG) rank official to probe the entire circumstances that led to the encounter and its aftermath. The CRPF, according to senior officials, had moved a component of 700 troops from five directions on May 17 towards Pedi in the same district to launch an offensive against the Maoists suspected to have been gathered around that area. The strike squad that started from Ganglur encountered hostile fire at Arasmetta village at about 11pm and the crossfire went on for about an hour after which the squad, with an injured commando and a civilian and three suspects, retreated to their base the next morning.”

Bangladesh:

Business Standard: A Bangladeshi online activist has called for a ban on the country’s biggest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami

“Bangladesh online activist and spokesperson of the Shahbagh’s Ganajagaran Mancha, Imran H Sarkar, has called for the banning of country’s biggest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, while blaming it for wartime atrocities committed during the 1971 liberation war.

Jamaat, an Islamist ally of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), opposed independence from Pakistan, denied accusations that some of its leaders committed murder, rape and torture during the conflict. The trigger for this year’s spasm of unrest came in February when a tribunal set up by the government to investigate abuses during the war sentenced a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party to life in prison, sparing him execution. Sarkar said Monday that Jamaat-e-Islami was a militant organization, which had tried to mask their activities with the so-called political activities.”

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