Under siege: Militants launched a series of complex, coordinated attacks across Afghanistan on Sunday afternoon, using teams of suicide bombers and gunmen to attack seven diplomatic and government facilities in Kabul (NYT, AP, CNN, WSJ, LAT, Reuters,AFP, Post). The attacks began in central Kabul, where a NATO base and many Western embassies are located, with explosions followed by rocket and small arms attacks. Militants on the other side of town fired small arms and rocket propelled grenades on the Afghan parliament from a nearby building, and some lawmakers joined Afghan security forces defending the area. Almost simultaneously, militants also attacked sites in Paktia, Nangarhar, and Logar Provinces; Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that the attacks had been planned months in advance and were designed to mark the start of the group's spring offensive (Reuters).
Fighting finally ended Monday morning around 18 hours after it began, with at least eight Afghan security forces, three civilians, and 36 militants killed (LAT, NYT, Reuters,CNN, BBC, AP, Post). One militant arrested in Kabul told authorities that the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network was responsible for the attacks, which appeared to have been designed to demonstrate the strength of the insurgency rather than to cause massive bloodshed (AP). Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that the attacks represent an intelligence failure for Afghan forces "and especially for NATO" (AFP, Reuters).
The Afghan government on Saturday appointed Salahuddin Rabbani to replace his late father Burhanuddin Rabbani as the head of the High Peace Council tasked with negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban (AJE, Reuters, BBC, AP). The elder Rabbani was killed last September by a suicide attacker with a bomb hidden in his turban.
The Post's Greg Jaffe reported Saturday on the U.S. Army's struggle to secure Highway 1, Afghanistan's main road and an important link between the capital city of Kabul and the country's second largest city, Kandahar (Post). And the Times' Malia Wollan reported Saturday on the agricultural training U.S. soldiers must now undergo before being deployed to Afghanistan, to teach them about the work and specific crops that as much as 80% of the Afghan population grow to survive (NYT).
Over 100 militants belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan attacked a prison in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, freeing 384 prisoners, at least 20 of whom were described by police as "very dangerous" insurgents (AP, WSJ, CNN, BBC, LAT, AFP, AJE,NYT, Dawn, DT). The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, where the prison is located, sent a preliminary investigation report to the Interior Ministry on Monday, blaming the jailbreak on police and security forces, who were not prepared to respond to such an attack (Dawn, ET, The News). Some 30 prisoners returned to the jail after escaping, and around a dozen were arrested.
U.S. officials said this weekend that the United States is not considering halting drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions, after the Pakistani parliament on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution on new ties with the United States that calls for an immediate end to the attacks (AP). The Haqqani Network's supposed responsibility for Sunday's sophisticated attacks in Afghanistan could further exacerbate the tension in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship over what many in the United States see as Pakistan's reluctance to take action against militant groups based on Pakistani territory (AP).
A suspected militant tossed a hand grenade into a school in northwest Pakistan on Monday, killing one six-year-old boy and wounding two other children (CNN, ET, ). Unidentified gunmen killed at least eight Shi'a Muslims and a policeman in three separate attacks in Balochistan on Saturday, bringing the two-week death toll in the province to 26 (Dawn). Residents of the provincial capital city of Quetta observed a strike on Monday to protest the recent killings (DT).
Rescue workers have yet to pull anyone, alive or dead, from beneath the 80 feet of snow that trapped 128 soldiers and 11 civilians last Saturday on the remote Siachen Glacier on the northern tip of Kashmir (AP, Reuters). The extreme conditions on the glacier, highlighted by last week's avalanche, are prompting many in Pakistan to question the need to fight with India over this tiny piece of barren land (NYT).
The defense lawyer for Osama bin Laden's three widows and children in custody in Pakistan said on Friday that his clients will be deported to Saudi Arabia his week (AP,Reuters, CNN, Dawn). The Associated Press published a story Friday on Muhammed Khurshid Khan, one of two-dozen deputy attorneys general in Pakistan, who has dedicated the past two years of his life to volunteering at Sikh shrines in both India and Pakistan in an effort to atone for the killing of Sikhs by Muslim extremists (AP).
The United States Agency for International Development is making significant cuts to the number of aid projects it runs in Pakistan, in an effort to reorganize the billions of dollars the U.S. government gives to fund development efforts in Pakistan and to create fewer but more effective projects (AP). The Pakistani government has implemented an incentive plan to draw investors to the country's Thar coal fields in the hope that tapping Pakistan's large coal reserves will help address its massive energy crisis (Reuters).
As Pakistan's Capital Development Authority (CDA) expands its tourism projects in the Margalla Hills outside Islamabad, the Pakistan Wetlands Program is concerned about the native wild monkeys' increasing consumption of junk food (Dawn). Many visitors have taken to tossing chapattis, naans, and even chocolate onto the hoods of their cars in order to get the best photographs of the monkeys, but the unhealthy diet may encourage the monkeys to stop foraging for their natural, healthy food items.
-- Jennifer Rowland