15 wounded in mosque attack at Philippine police camp

JOLO, Philippines: Fifteen people including 10 police officers were wounded in an attack on a mosque at police camp on a remote Philippine island long plagued by Islamic militancy, officials said Saturday. Successive blasts targeted the mosque inside Camp Kasim on the island of Jolo early evening Friday – an initial grenade attack followed by a bomb explosion less than 10 minutes later that was intended to target police who rushed to the scene, local authorities said. “It seems the [first] explosion was set up to draw responders as the target,” the provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita told reporters. Rosalyn Aya-ay, a shopkeeper and policeman’s wife, said she found her husband sprawled on the ground after the first explosion and took him to the camp hospital, though he was not seriously injured. “When I returned I found my two daughters wounded by the second blast. I was scared and I had a hard time finding an ambulance to carry them,” she told AFP. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred inside the sprawling provincial police headquarters in the provincial capital of Jolo, a mainly Muslim island in the south of the predominantly Catholic Asian nation. It was the second bomb attack on Camp Kasim since 2010, when aChristmas Day blast wounded six people worshipping at a Catholic church in another section of the facility. Jolo is a known stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, a small group of a few hundred Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Al-Qaeda. Police investigators combed through the scene of the blast Saturday, which was about 10 meters (33 feet) from a...

12 Afghan cops killed in multiple checkpoint attacks

At least a dozen Afghan police officers were killed in a series of insurgent attacks on checkpoints in the country’s southern Uruzgan province, an official said. Nematullah Khan Roshan, deputy district chief for the Charcheno district in Uruzgan, said on Wednesday that Taliban insurgents attacked three separate police checkpoints on Monday night. Roshan added that pitched battles are still ongoing in the area and that government reinforcements have been deployed. The current confrontation is so intense, Roshan said, that the corpses of both police officers and insurgents killed in the battle have been laying in open ground with no way to safely recover the bodies. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, at least 10 insurgents were killed by government forces in the northwestern province of Badghis near the border with Turkmenistan, an official said. Mirwais Mirzakwal, spokesman for the provincial governor, said on Wednesday that the operation in the Bala Murghab district near the Turkmen border was still ongoing. Mirzakwal said his government had “done our best to provide security along the border.” Mirzakwal added that last year Turkmen authorities started building a fence along the border with Afghanistan after a Taliban attack in which three members of the Turkmen security forces were wounded. Source...

Suicide attack on Kabul bus kills three

KABUL – A Taliban suicide bomber struck a government bus in Kabul on Sunday, killing three and wounding at least 16 others, officials said, the second such attack in less than a week in the Afghan capital. The bus was transporting employees of the attorney general’s office to their homes when a man on foot detonated explosives strapped to his body, they said. “We can confirm three dead including a woman among them, and at least 16 others were wounded, three of them were women,” Gul Agha Rohani, deputy police chief of Kabul, told AFP. “The shuttle bus was carrying the attorney general office staff to their homes when it came under attack,” Rohani said, with all casualties civilians. Kabul’s criminal investigative director Farid Afzali confirmed the account, putting the number of wounded at 18. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes after the launch of their spring offensive last month, saying a number of staff of the attorney general were killed and wounded in the attack. The Taliban are known to exaggerate and distort their public statements as part of a propaganda drive accompanying their campaign against the Afghan and US-led foreign forces who ousted them from power in 2001. Scores of shuttle buses take government and military personnel to work every morning in the capital, and they have often been targeted by insurgents despite efforts by security forces to provide better protection. This year’s Taliban push marks the first fighting season in which Afghan forces will battle the insurgents without the full support of US-led foreign combat troops. NATO’s combat mission formally ended in December...

IS gunmen massacre 45 Ismailis in Karachi

KARACHI – Pistol-wielding gunmen in Karachi Wednesday stormed a bus carrying members of the Ismaili minority, killing at least 45 in the first attack in the country officially claimed by the Islamic State group. “According to the initial information which we have received from hospitals, 45 people have been killed and 13 wounded,” Ghulam Haider Jamali, Sindh police chief told reporters at the site in Malir district. “Six terrorists came on three motorcycles; they entered the bus and began firing indiscriminately. They used 9mm pistols and all those killed and injured were hit by the 9mm pistols,” he said. The attack occurred in the city suburbs where Ismaili community had recently constructed residential apartments, Al-Azhar Garden. The bus would pick the residents from the apartments and take them to the central city areas including Water Pump, Aaisha Manzil and Karimabad, and then bring them back. Paramilitary Rangers and police conducted a series of targeted raids in Sohrab Goth and Safoora Goth neighbourhoods after the attack and arrested 70 suspects. Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the world Ismaili community, confirmed the toll in a statement sent by his office in France. “This attack represents a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community,” the philanthropist and business magnate said.  ...

Taliban kill 17 Afghans but say they ‘welcome’ peace push

 KABUL — Taliban militants who have been waging war on the Afghan government for more than a decade expressed a willingness on Monday to soften their position on a range of issues, an apparent shift that could lead to peace talks.   But despite those positive signs after two days of informal talks in Qatar, a wave of Taliban attacks targeting police checkpoints late Sunday night in the remote Afghan province of Badakhshan killed at least 16 police officers.   The insurgents said in a statement to media that the assaults were part of their annual spring offensive, which began late last month.   And on Monday morning, a Taliban suicide bomber struck a bus carrying government workers in the capital, Kabul, killing one person and wounding 13. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that bombing. The attacks underscored how elusive peace is after decades of war in this Central Asian country.   During the informal discussions between Afghan government representatives and those of the Taliban in Qatar, both sides emphasized that peace talks were not on the agenda.   The Taliban have so far ignored calls from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for the group to join the government. However, their statement following Qatar meetings indicated flexibility on previously intractable issues such as the presence of foreigners in Afghanistan and acceptance of a constitution.   ‘‘The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again as a policy clearly states that it does not want to harm others and also won’t allow anyone to use Afghan soil against others,’’ it said, using the group’s formal name. The statement said that ‘‘for the...

Pakistani human rights activist shot dead in Karachi

Gunmen shot dead a Pakistani human rights activist on Friday after she hosted a talk on the politics of Baluchistan province, where security forces are fighting a separatist insurgency, police and associates said.   Sabeen Mahmud was leaving her Karachi restaurant, where she also holds exhibitions and talks, when the gunman attacked her in her car. Her mother, who was with her, was wounded, police said.   “Two gunmen on a motorcycle shot her. She was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead,” senior police official Tariq Dharejo said, adding police were investigating the killing. Mahmud had just hosted a seminar called “Unsilencing Baluchistan”, focussing on the disappearance of political activists in the southwestern province.   The talk was originally due to be held early this month at a university in Lahore but authorities blocked it, media reported at the time.   Rights activists accuse the security forces of carrying out extra-judicial killings of separatists in the province. Hundreds of people have disappeared and later been found dead in recent years. The security forces deny any role in the killings.   The army has vowed to end the Baluchistan insurgency being waged by separatists who say their province’s mineral and gas resources are unfairly exploited by Pakistan’s richer provinces.   Source...