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Taliban attack kills 42 in Pakistan air base

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www.telegraph.co.uk

By NewsGram Staff Writer

Peshawar: At least 42 people, among 13 terrorists, were killed on Friday when heavily armed Pakistani Taliban guerrillas stormed a mosque during morning prayers in an air base near Peshawar.

The audacious attack took place less than a year after over 150 people, mostly children, were killed in a terrorist attack at an army-run public school in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

www.pakistantoday.com.pk
www.pakistantoday.com.pk

Major General Asim Bajwa, the Inter-Services Public Relations director general, claimed the attack was planned and controlled from Afghanistan.

The terrorists, dressed in constabulary uniforms and wearing explosives-laden jackets and armed with hand-propelled grenades, mortars, and AK-47 rifles, entered the Badaber air base from two points and then quickly split into three groups, with two moving to a residential area.

The third group approached the mosque and sprayed worshippers with bullets during the morning ‘Fajar’ prayers, killing at least 16 people. However, it was not clear how many among the killed were civilians and how many were military personnel.

“The terrorists then split into two groups, with one group heading towards the administrative area of the base and the other group heading towards technical area,” Bajwa added.

“Captain Asfandyar embraced shahadat while fighting valiantly and leading his troops from the front,” Bajwa said.

The air base — which is essentially a residential complex rather than an operational one — is located on the southern-most tip of Peshawar’s administrative limits.

It is surrounded by tribal territory, which had been the hub of criminal and militant activity until recently.

The attack comes amid claims of success by the military in its 15-month operation in the tribal region, and might well be an attempt by militants to show they can still hit hard chosen targets.

www.telegraph.co.uk
www.telegraph.co.uk

It also exposed holes in Pakistan’s pre-emptive intelligence gathering mechanisms, mainly due to lack of coordination and information sharing among various security agencies.

Gen. Bajwa said 16 people offering prayers at the air base mosque, 10 km south of Peshawar, were shot dead.

He tweeted that 13 terrorists were killed. The Pakistan army too suffered casualties.

The total number of gunmen involved was unclear, but Bajwa said the armed forces were hunting for the remaining attackers.

At least 25 people, including eight soldiers and two army officers, were injured as army commandos and personnel of the Pakistan Air Force and Quick Reaction Force carried out a counter-attack.

A posse of security personnel quickly reached the spot, triggering a heavy exchange of fire. Residents said they heard explosions and gunfire soon after the terror attack was mounted.

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani in an e-mailed statement claimed responsibility and said a “suicidal unit” had carried out the attack.

“We sent 14 men to attack the base and eight of them entered the base from one side and six from the other side,” the spokesperson’s e-mail said.

On August 16, 2012, militants attacked the Minhas base of the Pakistan Air Force at Kamra. But lately there has been a lull in the violence. The last deadly attack in the city came in February when three Taliban militants stormed a Shia mosque, killing 21 people.

Following Friday’s attack, army chief General Raheel Sharif reached Peshawar. Air chief Sohail Aman also left for the city, a PAF spokesperson said.

“Army chief visited CMH, met injured army and PAF personnel,” Bajwa said, adding the chief of air staff accompanied him. “Injured in high morale and spirits,” he added.

Condemning the attack, President Mamnoon Hussain said the nation was committed to eliminate terrorism from the country.

“Terrorists cannot undermine our resolve by carrying out coward acts of terrorism,” the president said.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, saying: “Terrorists will be rooted out from the country.”

The premier said he was being updated on the ongoing operation against terrorists. He said the armed forces of the county have the full support of the entire nation.

Sharif also reached Peshawar and visited the wounded soldiers and civilians in hospital.

Corps commander Lt Gen. Hidayatur Rehman conducted aerial surveillance of the base from a helicopter.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Guatemala: Human Rights Defenders Under Attack

The U.N. human rights office has recorded an alarming 884 attacks against human rights defenders

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Guatemala, Human Rights Defenders
FILE - Hundreds of indigenous people, peasant farmers and activists demonstrate in the streets of Guatemala City, demanding the end of the corruption and the persecution of political leaders, May 8, 2019. VOA

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Office finds human rights defenders, minorities and indigenous people in Guatemala are subject to widescale, wanton attacks by state and non-state actors. The report, prepared with Guatemala’s National Human Rights Institution, covers the period from January 2017 to April 2019.

The U.N. human rights office has recorded an alarming 884 attacks against human rights defenders, including 39 killings during the two-year reporting period. It says human rights defenders are subject to physical attacks, threats, intimidation, surveillance, stigmatization, and gender-based violence.

Guatemala, Human Rights Defenders

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Office finds human rights defenders, minorities and indigenous people in Guatemala are subject to widescale, wanton attacks. Pixabay

The report accuses the government of misusing criminal law to silence those defending peoples’ rights to lands, territories and natural resources. It notes indigenous peoples, women defenders, LGBTI defenders, and journalists are among those at particular risk of abuse.

In mid-June, Guatemalans will go to the poll to elect the President and Congress. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado said this is a particularly precarious time for human rights defenders. She said her office has documented a number of attacks against community and indigenous leaders targeted for their political involvement.

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“Three political candidates and two people with declared intentions to run for office have been killed since January 2019. Impunity in relation to these crimes is persistent and rampant. Independent judges — including from High Courts — and prosecutors have faced assaults, threats, reprisals and have been stigmatized,” said Hurtado.

The report warns these attacks and abuses of peoples’ civil rights bring into question the credibility of the electoral process. It says widespread violations will persist unless measures are taken to end the country’s endemic corruption, redress the lack of land tenure, improve security and institutional weaknesses.

The report recommends the government strengthen measures to prevent, protect, investigate and prosecute crimes committed against human rights defenders. (VOA)