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Suspected Taliban Suicide Bomber Hits Court Complex in Pakistan, killing at least 12 people and wounding about 50

District mayor Himatyat Ullah told reporters an armed attacker threw a hand grenade at security guards at the gate before detonating the explosives strapped to his body

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Representational Image of Bomber attack. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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Authorities in northwestern Pakistan say a suicide bombing attack on a court complex has killed at least 12 people and wounded about 50 others.

The violence happened Friday in the city of Mardan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

District mayor Himatyat Ullah told reporters an armed attacker threw a hand grenade at security guards at the gate before detonating the explosives strapped to his body.

Authorities and hospital sources say a number of lawyers are among the victims and the death toll is likely to increase.

The bombing occurred hours after Pakistani troops killed four suicide bombers before they could detonate their devices in a Christian neighborhood in the provincial capital of Peshawar. The attack prompted authorities to step up security around churches in the province and elsewhere in Pakistan.

A military statement said the firefight with the attackers wounded two soldiers, a police guard and two civilians.

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A spokesman for the breakaway faction of the extremist Pakistani Taliban namely Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) told VOA it was behind the two attacks, though it was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim.

A suicide attack outside a hospital in southwestern city of Quetta last month killed more than 75 people, mostly lawyers. JuA had also claimed responsibility for that bombing. The United States recently designated the group as a global terrorist organization.

Pakistani officials allege JuA operates out of Afghanistan’s border areas and is being supported by the neighboring country’s intelligence agency, charges Kabul rejects.

Friday’s violence happened a day after the Pakistan military announced it has cleared northwestern semi-autonomous tribal districts of militant networks and “forestalled” Islamic State’s attempts to establish a footprint in the country. The tribal areas are located on the Afghan border and have traditionally been condemned as a hub of local and international militant outfits.

Army spokesman Lt. General Asim Bajwa said Thursday security forces have arrested more than 300 IS-linked militants, including Syrians and Afghans. He said they were plotting attacks on government, diplomatic and other civilian facilities, including media houses.

“They tried to make an ingress, and they failed and they have been apprehended so far,” Bajwa told reporters.

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The general said that since the military launched a counterterrorism offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and its allied groups near the Afghan border two years ago, more than 3,500 militants around 540 soldiers have been killed. Additionally, Bajwa noted the war has also cost Pakistan an estimated $107 billion.

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He released the details in response to U.S. and Afghan criticism that Pakistan has been fighting anti-state militants but sparing the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban allegedly using Pakistani soil for deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

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“Terrorists of all organizations, including Haqqanis, including Afghan Taliban, have been killed and some apprehended … so if you say that you know actions have not been taken or (are) not being taken, that is wrong,” he said.

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump’s Tough stand on Pak

The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) issued a statement Monday welcoming Donald Trump's stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

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Donald Trump is famous for his rude comments towards brown people. wikimedia commons
Donald Trump is famous for his rude comments towards brown people. wikimedia commons

Washington, D.C.– The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Executive Committee issued a statement Monday welcoming the President’s stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

The AFB said President Donald J. Trump has called out Pakistan’s constant bluffs with the US and pointed out a big chunk of American assistance was used against people of Balochistan in a secret, dirty war instead of the Taliban.

Khwaja Wali Kirani in Balochistan. Wikimedia Commons

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” President Trump first tweet of 2018 reads.

The tweet was loved by nearly quarter-million Americans and retweeted 83,000 times in less than 24 hours.

The AFB executive committee said the US remains Pakistan’s top foreign aid donor, in addition to the money paid in expectation of cooperation in the Global War on Terror. Yet, for many years now, serving officers in the US Armed Forces have repeatedly spoken out about Pakistan’s perfidy in Afghanistan, which has cost the US lives, money and strategic credibility in the world’s eyes. Pakistan also remains a training ground for terrorism and a prime proliferator of nuclear weapons technology.

No country’s development and democracy have suffered more from Pakistan’s interference via state-sponsored terrorism than Afghanistan. US efforts to help the Afghans rebuild their nation are constantly sabotaged by reeling instability. India is another well-known target.

The AFB said Balochistan is a region rich in natural gas. It that has seen several bloody cycles of insurgency ever since Pakistan forcibly annexed the autonomous Baloch state of Kalat in 1948 in violation of a Standstill Agreement. A portion of historical Balochistan also sits on the other side of Pakistan’s border with Iran. Further, it borders Afghanistan to the north-west. Pakistan’s brutal record in this strategically located province that forms the northern lip of the key Straits of Hormuz has spiked in recent years.

“People of Balochistan tried their very best to work with Pakistan’s false promises of integration after forceful accession, but instead gave genocide to Balochs,” said the statement.

The AFB monitors the situation in Balochistan closely and is in touch with freedom and democracy activists on the ground. The AFB reiterated their call to the Pakistani government to cease violating the physical security of Baloch people, their freedom of expression, and end the policy of economic exploitation and genocidal violence.

A slow-motion genocide in Balochistan has claimed the lives of 35,000 Baloch people, 6,000 of whom were buried in mass graves while 21,000 are Victims of Enforced Disappearances, according to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. “The enforced disappearances situation in Balochistan is no different than what it used to be in Chile and Argentine in the 1970s and 1980s,” the AFB executive committee noted.

The AFB executive committee chimed in with similar sentiments expressed by policy experts in academe, veteran politicians, diplomats, intelligence chiefs, and human rights activists. Among them were former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leading South Asia expert and former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, several Baloch freedom and human rights activists cutting across party lines, former head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh, and even normally fierce critics of President Trump’s administration such as Prof. Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

The AFB executive committee consists of Jane Eastwood Weisner, Najeeb Khan, Krishna Gudipati, Soumya Chowdhury and Habiba Ashna. The organization was founded by veteran Baloch journalist Ahmar Mustikhan, who is the president.

Hope and doubt have been expressed on whether the US president’s tweet and words will translate into actionable legislation. Mustikhan published a survey of some of these thoughts in an article titled “Wave of joy sweeps across Afghanistan, Balochistan & India over Trump’s first tweet of 2018”.