Nine Killed In Pakistan Second Attack

At least nine people were killed when gunmen opened fire outside a mosque in the second attack in Quetta in south-west Pakistan in as many days.

About 20 others were wounded in the attack, which came as worshippers left the Sunni Muslim mosque after sunrise prayers for the Eid al-Fitr festival. Bullets hit the car of Ali Madad Jatak, a former Pakistan People’s Party provincial minister, but he was unhurt.

On Thursday dozens of people died in a suicide bomb blast in Quetta. In the latest attack, four unidentified men opened fire on the former minister as prayers came to a close.

“They fled after killing innocent people,” Mr Jatak, former Balochistan minister said. “I was the target. They could have fired at me. They killed innocent worshippers belonging to different communities. This is against humanity. It is brutality on the level of animals.”

Mr Jatak held a ministerial role in the Balochistan provincial government, as a representative of the PPP, which headed the last national coalition government. Four people died at the scene while the others succumbed to their injuries in hospital, a senior local police official, Bashir Ahmad Brohi told the AFP news agency.

“When people came outside on the stairs, the terrorists were already present there,” Mohammad Adnan, a witness, told the Associated Press news agency. “They started shooting and targeting many people. Two children were among the martyrs and around 20 people were injured.”

No group has said it carried out the shooting, which took place near Quetta’s eastern bypass.Quetta has seen a recent surge in sectarian violence, mostly targeting the Shia Muslim minority.

Quetta is the provincial capital of Balochistan, which is plagued not just by the Taliban’s insurgency, but also by sectarian in-fighting between Sunnis and Shias and a rebellion by Baloch separatists.

On Tuesday militants from the separatist Baloch Liberation Army shot dead 13 bus passengers 70 kilometres (44 miles) south-east of Quetta.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power in June after promising to negotiate with militant groups.

Officials said they were preparing a comprehensive security strategy, bringing together delegates from all political parties, in an effort to combat violent extremism.

However the strategy has not yet been released, and no all-party meeting has yet been scheduled.

 

 

Taliban Gunmen Storm Pakistan Prison, Free Hundreds

Taliban fighters disguised as police and armed with bombs and grenades broke 250 prisoners out of a Pakistan jail in a brazen overnight operation that raised serious questions over the new government’s ability to combat militancy.

Fighting continued into the early hours of Tuesday, with explosions and machine gunfire rattling the city of Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

The attack underlines the growing capabilities of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, an offshoot of the Islamist insurgents of the same name inAfghanistan. The freed prisoners included dozens of top militants.

Months after promising peace talks with the insurgents, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to be accepting that the use of military force may be unavoidable.

Dozens of gunmen launched the attack by blowing up the electricity line to the prison and detonating heavy explosions that breached the outer walls.

The militants then fought their way inside using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, and calling the names of Taliban prisoners through loud speakers.

“It’s completely dark in there. We don’t know what’s going on but there is fighting,” provincial prisons chief Khalid Abbas told Reuters as the fighting unfolded.

Security forces said they had imposed a curfew on the city and the gunbattle was over by dawn. A Reuters reporter at the scene saw security forces and bomb disposal squads conducting searches amid ruined walls strewn with bullet holes.

The audacity of the attack raises embarrassing questions over how well-prepared Pakistani security forces are following a series of high-profile attacks, and underscores the challenges facing Pakistan’s new government in combating the militancy.

It also comes the day lawmakers are due to choose a new president in a largely ceremonial vote, and two days before a major Shi’ite festival which security officials have warned could be attacked.

“It was a heavily guarded jail and considered one of the most protected prisons in the province,” said a senior government official in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“We will investigate how the militants managed to come from the distant tribal areas and break into the jail and take away their people.”

Another security official said provincial authorities received warning of the impending attack two weeks ago.

He said phone intercepts indicated the militants had been planning a jail break and interrogations of captured fighters confirmed it. Security officials had alerted the provincial governor of the threat based on the intercepts.

BRAZEN ATTACK

The Pakistani Taliban said they had sent a squad of 100 fighters and seven suicide bombers on a mission to free some of their top leaders, and they said they released 250 prisoners — a number roughly matched by local Pakistani authorities.

Mushtaq Jadoon, the town’s civil commissioner, said the 253 escaped prisoners included 30 top militants and six people on death row. Those who escaped are believed to have been whisked away to the lawless tribal areas of South and North Waziristan.

As the gunbattle unfolded, gunmen took over a nearby house and hospital, holding the residents hostage as they fired on police from the rooftops and laid ambushes for reinforcements.

Police Constable Gul Mohammed said he had been rushing to the scene when he was challenged by two young boys holding rifles.

“They told me to stop,” he said. “I told them I am a policeman, and that’s when they opened fire.” He added that he was shot three times.

The heavily guarded jail houses around 5,000 prisoners. Around 250 are Pakistani Taliban and members of banned sectarian groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group that has killed hundreds of Shi’ite civilians this year.

At least 12 were killed, including four Shi’ite prisoners whose throats were slashed by gunmen, prison officials said.

A senior Taliban official told Reuters separately the attack on the prison was masterminded by Adnan Rashid, a Taliban commander who was himself freed when his prison in the northern town of Bannu was overran by militants last year.

After that attack, militants told Reuters they had been helped by insiders in the security services. An inquiry later found there were far fewer guards on duty than there should have been and those who were there lacked sufficient ammunition.

UK N750, 000 Visa Bond: FG Promises To Defend Nigerians

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru has stated that Nigeria has not received any communication on the plan by the British government to introduce £3,000 (about N750,000) fee as visa bond from visitors from Nigeria.

The Sunday Times of London reported that the Conservative government is planning to implement a pilot scheme that would target visitors from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Pakistan and India from November. The countries are considered as high risk of immigration abuse in the United Kingdom.

The Minister, who spoke at a news conference in Abuja on Monday, assured that when received, the proposed visa policy will be carefully studied to protect the interest of Nigerian citizens.

“Really, we have received no official communication from the U.K. government,” he said.

“When we receive communication from them, we will study whatever proposal they are trying to do but I can assure all Nigerians that President Jonathan’s government will defend the interest of Nigerians by whatever means it can.’’

Uk’s Home Secretary; Theresa May said the David Cameron administration is serious about cutting immigration and abuses of the system.

Visitors from 18 years of age and over would be compelled to hand over £3,000 from November for a six-month visit visa.

They will forfeit the money if they overstay in Britain after their visa has expired.

9000 Nigerians in Prisons Abroad

Beside the visa issue, the Minister expressed concern about the number of Nigerians in foreign prisons, many of whom, he noted, are on death row in Asia and pacific countries.

He said over 9000 Nigerians are currently serving prisons term abroad, with the largest number of 752 in the UK.

“Most of the remaining prisoners are concentrated in the Asia – Pacific region and a good number of them are on death row” he stated.

He however said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has entered transfer agreement with some of these countries.

“We are concluding Prisoners’ Transfer Agreement (PTA) with all those countries, such as United Kingdom, Thailand, Japan, China, Indonesia, Switzerland, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Hong Kong, so that we can bring home these Nigerians to complete their prison terms.

“I wish to seize this opportunity to appeal to members of different groups; the media, civil societies, religious groups, traditional rulers, etc, to join hands in the education of our youths in an enlightenment campaign against trafficking in drugs, in particular, and other social vices in general.

“This assignment should not be left alone to Governments at different levels to handle.’’

The Minister also revealed that Nigeria has acquired a total of N8billion foreign direct investment in 2012 following its bilateral ties with other countries.

 

 

Gunmen Kill Nine Tourists, Tour Guide In Northern Pakistan

Gunmen stormed a hotel in a remote part of northern Pakistan on Sunday and killed nine foreign tourists and a Pakistani guide near the foot of one of the world’s tallest mountains, police and security officials said.

Five Ukrainians, three Chinese, a Russian and their guide were killed in the attack in a remote resort area near the base camp for the 8,125-metre snow-covered Nanga Parbat peak, a popular destination for adventurous trekkers, officials said.

“Unknown people entered a hotel where foreign tourists were staying last night and opened fire,” Ali Sher, a senior police officer in Gilgit-Baltistan province, told Reuters.

Sher had earlier said 10 foreign tourists were killed, but officials revised the tally as fresh reports arrived from the area.

A Pakistani militant group known as Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack.

“These foreigners are our enemies and we proudly claim responsibility for killing them and will continue such attacks in the future as well,” Jundullah spokesman Ahmed Marwat told Reuters by telephone.

The same group has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on members of Pakistan’s Shi’ite Muslim minority, known as Shias, in northern Pakistan, including an ambush in February 2012 when gunmen shot 18 bus passengers by the roadside.

The gunmen fled after the attack on the hotel, which took place at about 1 a.m. on Sunday, Sher said.

A senior government official said a large number of security personnel had been sent to the area.

“Since the area is very remote with no roads or transport, the bodies will have to be retrieved by helicopter,” the official said.

Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders China and Kashmir, had been considered one of the more secure areas of Pakistan, but has witnessed a spate of attacks by militants targeting members of Pakistan’s Shi’ite minority in recent years.

It was the first time foreign tourists had been attacked in the province, which is famous for its natural beauty.

Pakistan receives few foreign tourists, but a trickle of visitors is tempted by the spectacular mountain scenery in its northern areas, where the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalaya mountain ranges converge.

Nigeria To Partner With Pakistan Airforce On Security

Nigeria on Tuesday agreed to strengthen military ties with Pakistan through training and supply of defence equipment. 

The agreement was reached at a meeting between the head of Pakistan air force, Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique-Butt and top Nigerian military officers in Abuja.

Air Chief Marshal Rafique-Butt, who is on a five-day visit to the country, arrived at the Nigerian Airforce Headquarters in the company of the Nigerian Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Bardeh.

The visitor told the Nigerian military authorities that the Pakistan air force is eager to collaborate with the Nigerian military to ensure that the country becomes a self-sufficient air force like Pakistan.

Air Marshal Bardeh thanked the Pakistani delegation for its assistance to the Nigerian Airforce and requested for more assistance and cooperation between the two countries.

Air Chief Marshal Rafique-Butt restated the need for cooperation, saying he looked forward to seeing the discussions and memorandum of understanding turning to tangible actions.

 

Ex-Pakistan PM’s Son Abducted As Taliban Threaten Election

Gunmen kidnapped the son of a former Pakistani prime minister on Thursday as a letter from the leader of the Pakistani Taliban revealed plans for suicide bomb attacks on election day.

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, in a message to the group’s spokesman, outlined plans for the attacks, including suicide blasts, in all four of the country’s provinces on polling day on Saturday.

“We don’t accept the system of infidels which is called democracy,” Mehsud said in the letter, dated May 1, and obtained by Reuters on Thursday.

Since April, the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban have killed more than 100 people in attacks on election candidates and rallies, particularly those of secular-leaning parties, in a bid to undermine elections they regard as un-Islamic.

The polls, already Pakistan’s most violent, will mark the first time a civilian government has completed a full term and handed over to another administration.

The attacks have prevented candidates from the three main parties in the ruling coalition from holding big rallies. Instead, they have relied on door-to-door campaigning or small meetings in homes or on street corners.

Gunmen kidnapped the son of Yusuf Raza Gilani, former prime minister and stalwart of the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), as he headed for a small political gathering in the central city of Multan, police said.

Ali Haider Gilani’s secretary and guard were shot dead in the attack.

“If we don’t get my brother by this evening I will not let the elections happen in my area,” said his brother, Musa, in televised comments.

Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan denied responsibility in a telephone call to Reuters.

MILITANTS SPARE MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY

The Pakistan Taliban are blamed for many of the suicide bombings across the country, a nuclear-armed strategic ally of the United States.

But they have not attacked the main opposition party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which has courted support from groups accused of supporting militancy.

Sharif, who is seen as favorite to become the next prime minister, says Pakistan should reconsider its support for the U.S. war on Islamist militancy and suggests he would be in favor of negotiations with the Taliban.

Nor have the Taliban attacked former cricketer Imran Khan’s party, which advocates shooting down U.S. drones and withdrawing the Pakistani military from insurgency-infested ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghan border.

The military said on Thursday it would send tens of thousands of troops to polling stations and counting centers to prevent the Taliban from disrupting the election.

The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 66-year history, either through coups or from behind the scenes.

Army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said 300,000 security officials, including 32,000 troops, had been deployed in Punjab, the most populous province. Another 96,000 security forces would be deployed in the northwest.

“Definitely they have reports and obviously they have made a plan to counter that,” newspapers quoted him as saying, referring to security agencies getting threats of violence from the Taliban.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League has capitalized on widespread frustrations with the outgoing government led by the Pakistan People’s Party.

Madonna Auctions Painting To Raise $7Million For Girls’ Education

Madonna sold an abstract painting by French artist Fernand Leger for $7.16 million on Tuesday to raise funds for girls’ education projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

The 1921 painting, “Trois Femmes a la Table Rouge,” which carried a pre-sale estimate of up to $7 million, was purchased by an unidentified buyer at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale in New York, according to the auction house’s website.

The pop singer said in April that she bought the painting in 1990 and that selling it would combine her passions for art and education by raising funds for the Ray of Light Foundation, a non-profit organization offering vocational training for street children and poor farmers.

“I cannot accept a world where women or girls are wounded, shot or killed for either going to school or teaching in girls’ schools. We don’t have time to be complacent,” Madonna said in a statement last month.

“I want to trade something valuable for something invaluable – Educating Girls!”

Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi in southern Africa and plans to build 10 schools there.

Blast At Election Rally Kills 15 In Pakistan

A blast at an election rally organized by a religious party in Pakistan killed 15 people on Monday, officials said.

The attack at a gathering of members of the Jamiat Ulema-e- Islam religious party wounded 40 people, said the officials.

Since April, the Pakistani Taliban have killed more than 70 people in attacks targeting three major political parties, preventing many of their most prominent candidates from openly campaigning.

But the militant group has targeted moderate parties in their bid to undermine the May 11 general election, not religious ones like the Jamiat Ulema-e- Islam.

One official said a suicide bomber blew himself at the gathering. There was no claim of responsibility.

The polls mark the first time that an election is being held to decide on a transition between civilian governments.

The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 66-year history, either through coups or from behind the scenes.

But the Taliban violence has marred the election, with some candidates afraid to campaign.

The attack in the Kurram region, an ethnic Pashtun area near the Afghan border, will raise questions about whether the Taliban have expanded their campaign beyond moderate parties.

Sultan Affirms Support For Eradiction Of Polio

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar (III), has restated the commitment and support of traditional rulers in the 19 northern states to the eradication of polio in Nigeria.

Child receiving the polio vaccine

The Sultan, made this known while receiving the Minister of Health in Monday and he maintained that the committee of traditional rulers had in the last two years increased the awareness amongst their subjects concerning vaccination against polio.

In his response the Minister of Health, Professor Oyebuchi Chukwu said that considerable progress has been made in the fight against polio.

Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world polio still exits and health officials administering the polio vaccines to children have been attacked and killed in the three countries.

Unknown gunmen  killed nine health workers in Unguwa Uku area of Kano metropolis, while they were carrying out polio immunization in the city in February.

U.S. Warns Health Officials To Be Alert For Deadly New virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday warned state and local health officials about potential infections from a deadly virus previously unseen in humans that has now sickened 14 people and killed 8.

Most of the infections have occurred in the Middle East, but a new analysis of three confirmed infections in Britain suggests the virus can pass from person to person rather than from animal to humans, the CDC said in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report on Thursday.

The virus is a coronavirus, part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003. The new virus is not the same as SARS, but like the SARS virus, it is similar to those found in bats.

So far, no cases have been reported in the United States.

According to the CDC’s analysis, the infections in Britain started with a 60-year-old man who had recently traveled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and developed a respiratory illness on January 24, 2013. Samples from the man showed he was infected with both the new virus and with H1N1, or swine flu.

This man subsequently passed the infection to two members of his household: a male with an underlying illness who became ill on February 6 and subsequently died; and a healthy adult female in his household who developed a respiratory illness on February 5, but who did not need to be hospitalized and has recovered.

The CDC said people who develop a severe acute lower respiratory illness within 10 days of returning from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries should continue to be evaluated according to current guidelines.

The health agency said doctors should be watchful of patients who develop an unexplained respiratory infection within 10 days of traveling from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries. The CDC has set up a special website with updates on the infections at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ncv/ .

Symptoms of infection with this new virus include severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Neither the CDC nor the World Health Organisation has issued travel restrictions related to the virus.

Twitter Launches Advertising Services In Middle East

Twitter Inc. on Sunday launched an advertising service in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as the social media firm seeks to exploit a tripling of its regional subscriber base following its widespread use during the Arab Spring protests.

Digital advertising is relatively undeveloped in the region, accounting for an estimated 4 percent of its total advertising spending, tech-savvy population and rising Internet penetration points to significant potential for growth.

“The two are interconnected – the rapid growth of our user base with the timing of why we want to help brands connect with that audience,” said Shailesh Rao, Twitter vice-president for international operations.

Twitter does not provide a regional breakdown of its more than 200 million users worldwide, but Rao said its MENA subscriber base had tripled in the past 12 months.

The company has recruited Egypt’s Connect Ads, owned by Cairo-listed Orascom Telecom Media and Technology, to launch advertising initially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Twitter Inc. has named Pepsi and Saudi telecom operator Etihad Etisalat (Mobile) as confirmed clients.

Twitter says the products it promotes typically has an audience response rate of 1 to 3 percent, significantly higher than traditional advertising rate of 0.1 to 0.5 percent.

“Social media advertising is totally different because it relies on what people say. It’s about two-way, not one-way, communication,” said Mohamed El Mehairy, Connect Ads managing director.

Anti-Muslim video ignites violence in Pakistan, 6 killed

Muslim protest against insults to the Prophet Mohammad turned violent in Pakistan, where six people were killed on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, but remained mostly peaceful in Islamic countries elsewhere.

In France, where the publication of cartoons denigrating the Prophet stoked anger over an anti-Islam video made in California, the authorities banned all protests over the issue.

“There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up,” said Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government also banned protests against the images published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Four people were killed and almost 30 wounded last week when the U.S. embassy was stormed in a protest over the film.

Many Western and Muslim politicians and clerics have appealed for calm, denouncing those behind the mockery of the Prophet, but also condemning violent reactions to it.

At street level, Muslims enraged by attacks on their faith spoke of a culture war with those in the West who put rights to freedom of expression above any religious offence caused.

“They hate him (the Prophet Mohammad) and show this through their continued works in the West, through their writings, cartoons, films and the way they launch war against him in schools,” said Abdessalam Abdullah, a preacher at a mosque in Beirut’s Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj al-Barajneh.

Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet blasphemous.

REUTERS