Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Over 60 dead in Afghan and Pakistan blasts

A day after an explosion struck a market in Islamabad killing 17 people, another blast rocked the country on Monday bringing fresh fears that terrorists are launching a widespread campaign of violence. On Sunday a blast targeted police and coincided with the first anniversary of the siege of the red mosque [BBC].

On Monday evening a number of blasts brought panic to the streets of Karachi. There was only one reported death, but more than 35 were injured, amongst them a number of children. However conflicting reports from ARY One World TV suggested two had died in 7 explosions and that more than 50 had been injured. President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani issued statements condemning blasts which have shattered a relative peace in the country [CNN / BBC].

Pakistan is not the only country suffering at the hands of terrorist bombers. In the heart of Kabul in neighbouring Afghanistan more than 40 were killed when a car bomb exploded near the Indian Embassy. Amongst those killed was the Indian defence attaché and a political consul. It is not clear if the suicide bomber was specifically targeting the Indian Embassy. The embassy is in the centre of Kabul, opposite the Interior Ministry and in close proximity to several other government buildings. Queues of people wishing to obtain visas for India can be seen every morning outside the embassy. "It is very important to say that among the dead were innocent civilians and shopkeepers, women and children," said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was clear, at least in his own mind, that the attack was targeted at India, as well as his own country. Calling it an "abominable act" he said "is the work of the enemies of Afghanistan’s friendship with India" [CNN / BBC].

Afghanistan was also seeking answers to a pair of air strikes that killed a number of civilians. On Sunday around 23 people were killed and 10 others injured following a coalition air strike in Nangarhar province. The incident came only two days after 15 civilians died in a helicopter attack on the borders of Konar and Nurestan provinces. Amongst those killed were five members of one family, a doctor and two children, according to a government spokesmen. In July 2002, a US airstrike in Oruzgan Province killed at least 34 people at a wedding party.
The United Nations has said the proportion of Afghan civilian deaths blamed on government forces and U.S. and NATO troops has declined in the first six months of 2008, largely due to pressure from Karzai's government. "It is clear that the international military forces are making every effort to minimize civilian casualties and recognize the damage this does and want to deal with that," U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs John Holmes said in June. But he added, “Problems are still there, and we need to deal with them and make sure that the safety of civilians comes first and international humanitarian law is respected by everybody."
More than 2,100 people, mostly said to be militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year. More than 8,000 people died in attacks last year, according to the UN [CNN].

Meanwhile in Iraq at least 11 were killed in a bomb blast in the north of the country. A suicide car bomb struck a check point south of Samarra killing four and injuring six others. In Baquba a blast killed one woman and injured fifteen. Another bomb killed two women farm workers in southern Baquba and a mortar attacke in Mosul hit the compound of provincial Gov. Duraid Kashmoula leaving six injured. Also on Monday four contractors were killed by a roadside bomb in Mosul. Besides the recent attacks the US military claim that violence is down in recent months [CNN / BBC].

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