Wednesday, Pakistani officials announced the capture of a "key French
al-Qaeda operative" in an operation near Pakistan's border with Iran (BBC, CNN, FT, Reuters, Dawn).
The man, a French national named Naamen Meziche, is said to be in
charge of some of al-Qaeda's international operations and was a close
associate of Younis Al Mauretani, the senior al-Qaeda leader who was
believed to have been tasked with planning attacks in Australia, Europe
and the United States before his apprehension by Pakistani authorities
in September 2011. According to the BBC Meziche is thought to be part of
the Hamburg terrorist cell that played a key role in masterminding the
9/11 terrorist attacks. His job there was to recruit jihadists to the
same mosque that ringleader Mohammed Atta and three of the other 9/11
hijackers attended (the mosque was later closed by German authorities in
2010). Pakistani officials who leaked details of the raid did not say
precisely when or where the operation had taken place.
Late Monday night, popular Pakistani singer Ghazala Javed was murdered in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar (ET, BBC, VOA). The famous Pashto musician was killed alongside her father by men on motorbike after coming out of a beauty salon. The suspect in her shooting is her husband, whom she had tried to divorce in 2010 after she found out that he had another wife and also refused to let her keep singing. After the Taliban took control of the Swat valley in 2009, and after receiving threats to quit publicly singing, Javed fled to Peshawar, but any connection between the group and her death has not been established.
Suicide bomber targets military convoy
At least 11 people were killed after a suicide bomber in Afghanistan's Khost province attacked an Afghan and American military convoy on Wednesday (NYT, BBC, Dawn, CNN, AP). A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) acknowledged that there had been ISAF casualties but declined to add further details, while several Afghan police officers and civilians were among the dead. It is the second time this month that a suicide attack has targeted NATO forces in Khost, which sits near the Pakistani border and hosts mainly U.S. troops. Wednesday's incident comes after two attacks in Kandahar province on Tuesday: one in which several were injured after militants stormed a NATO base and another where three Afghan policemen were killed in a gun battle at a police checkpoint (AP, WaPo).
A U.S. military panel investigating the burning of Korans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan in February has recommended low-level, non-criminal punishment for as many as seven U.S. soldiers (LAT, WSJ, Al-Arabiya). In the aftermath of the burnings at Bagram Air Base, widespread violent riots and attacks in Afghanistan led to the deaths of at least 40 people including Afghan civilians and U.S. soldiers.
On Tuesday the head of the Afghan Central Bank, Noorullah Delawari, said that his country would need at least $6-7 billion in economic aid per year over the next decade to keep the country's growth at a sufficient rate (ET, Reuters). Ahead of a donors conference in Tokyo next month, the Afghan government also reiterated its desire to have any foreign assistance be routed through the Afghan government rather than international organizations. In November the World Bank forecast that the Afghan government would face a budget deficit of approximately $7 billion per year until 2021 after the 2014 withdrawal of international troops and aid. Currently, about 90 percent of Afghanistan's budget is made up of foreign assistance.
On the brighter side in Oman
The Pakistani Embassy in Oman is using the next several weeks to solidify the already strong relationship between the two countries by holding a number of initiatives to highlight Pakistan's cultural exports to the world. Events will include the touring of a docked Pakistani naval ship, a mango festival, and a showcase of the country's photography (Times of Oman).