More than 50 people killed in multiple Pakistan attacks

Pakistani residents gather along a road as smoke billows after a twin blasts at a market in Parachinar, capital of Kurram tribal district, on June 23, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 23 June 2017

More than 50 people killed in multiple Pakistan attacks

Peshawar, Pakistan: Multiple blasts and a gun attack killed more than 50 people and wounded at least 170 in three Pakistani cities on the last Friday of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, as officials warned the toll could rise.
Authorities said 37 people were killed and more than 150 wounded when twin blasts tore through a market in Parachinar, capital of Kurram district, a mainly Shiite area of Pakistan’s tribal belt.
Local official Nasrullah Khan told AFP that the first blast detonated as the market was crowded with shoppers preparing for the Eid ul-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan.
“When people rushed to the site... to rescue the wounded, a second blast took place,” he said.
Basir Khan Wazir, the top government official in Parachinar later told AFP that apparently both the blasts were carried out by two suicide bombers.
“We have transported 15 injured to Peshawar but condition of 15 to 20 injured people were critical,” Wazir said and warned that the death toll could rise.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for security to be beefed up across the country as he condemned the attack, saying that no Muslim could ever imagine committing such a “horrific” act.
Pakistan has seen a dramatic improvement in security in the last two years, but groups such as the umbrella Pakistani Taliban and other extremist outfits still retain the ability to carry out attacks.
Local lawmaker Sajid Hussain Turi, the owner of the market, said bazaars in Parachinar had been barricaded off and vehicles banned from the area after multiple attacks have hit the city this year.
Parachinar was the location of the first major militant attack in Pakistan in 2017, a bomb in a market which killed 24 people in January and was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. In March a second Taliban attack killed a further 22 people.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.
Kurram, one of Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal districts, is known for sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s population of 200 million.


The twin blasts in Parachinar followed a bombing earlier in the day in southwestern Quetta, capital of insurgency-wracked Balochistan province, that killed at least 13 people.
Investigators said the attack targeted police. It was claimed by both the local affiliate of the Daesh group and by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, according to the SITE monitoring group.
There was no immediate explanation for the dual claims. Islamic State Khorasan Province, the Middle Eastern group’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been known to work with the myriad of Pakistani militant groups in previous attacks, including with JuA.
Officials at the city’s Civil Hospital said at least 13 people were killed and around 20 injured, mostly by shrapnel. Police officials said nine policemen were among the dead.
At the hospital in Quetta, worried children stood by the bloodstained cots of wounded relatives, and Pakistani soldiers visited injured colleagues.
Stunned survivors could give few details about the attack. “I was sitting on a chair. There was an explosion. I got injured and fell down,” said one victim, Gulzar Ahmad.
Separately, gunmen on motorcycles Friday shot dead four policemen sitting at a roadside restaurant at SITE area in southern port-city Karachi.
Asif Bughio, a senior police official, told AFP that four attackers wearing helmets fled the scene.
Pakistan has waged a long war with militancy, but security has markedly improved in the country since its deadliest-ever terror attack, an assault on a school in northwestern Peshawar in which Taliban gunmen left more than 150 people dead, most of them children.
That attack shocked a country already grimly accustomed to atrocities, and prompted the military to intensify an operation in the tribal areas targeting militants.
The army has also been fighting in mineral-rich Balochistan, the country’s most restive province, since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed.
Its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth, but a greater push by Pakistani authorities has reduced the violence considerably in recent years.


Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord

Updated 12 min ago

Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord

  • Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement Tuesday that would transform the map of northeast Syria, installing their forces along the border
  • The Kurdish fighters were given a deadline of next Tuesday evening to pull back from border areas they have not already left

AKCAKALE, Turkey: Russian military police began patrols on part of the Syrian border Wednesday, quickly moving to implement an accord with Turkey that divvies up control of northeastern Syria. The Kremlin told Kurdish fighters to pull back from the entire frontier or else face being “steamrolled” by Turkish forces.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed those warnings, saying his military would resume its offensive against Kurdish fighters if the new arrangements are not carried out.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement Tuesday that would transform the map of northeast Syria, installing their forces along the border and filling the void left by the abrupt withdrawal of American troops. The Kurdish fighters, who once relied on the US forces as protection from Turkey, were given a deadline of next Tuesday evening to pull back from border areas they have not already left.
Iraq, meanwhile, closed the door on the US military’s attempt to keep the troops leaving Syria on its soil. Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari told The Associated Press that those troops were only “transiting” Iraq and would leave within four weeks, heading either to Kuwait, Qatar or the United States.
Al-Shammari spoke after meeting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who earlier this week had said the American forces from Syria would remain in Iraq to fight Daesh. Iraqi’s military quickly said they did not have permission to do so.
The clumsy reversal underscored the blow to US influence on the ground in the wake of President Donald Trump’s order for US troops to leave Syria. Those forces were allied to the Kurdish-led fighters for five years in the long and bloody campaign that brought down Daesh in Syria.
Now a significant swath of the territory they captured is being handed over to US rivals, and the Kurds have been stung at being abandoned by their allies to face the Turkish invasion launched on Oct. 9.
The Kremlin pointedly referred to that abandonment as it told the Kurds to abide by the Russian-Turkish accord.
“The United States was the closest ally of the Kurds during the last few years, and in the end the US ditched the Kurds and effectively betrayed them,” leaving them to fight the Turks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian newswires.
“It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back. And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army,” he said.
Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. It has demanded they retreat from the entire border region, creating a “safe zone” where Turkey could also settle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil.
Ankara would gain that goal under the new accord with Moscow along with the agreement last week with the US that put a cease-fire in place.
Kurdish forces completed withdrawing on Tuesday from a stretch of territory 120 kilometers (75 miles) wide along the border and 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep between the towns of Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. That pullback, allowing Turkish-backed forces to take over, was required under the US-Turkish accord.
The new agreement with Russia allows Turkey to keep sole control over that area. For the rest of the northeastern border, Russian and Syrian government forces will move in to ensure the Kurdish fighters leave. Then after the deadline runs out Tuesday, Turkish and Russian forces will jointly patrol a strip 10-kilometers (6 miles) deep along the border.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a convoy of military police had crossed the Euphrates River and deployed in the Syrian border town of Kobani.
“The military police will help protect the population, maintain order, patrol the designated areas and assist in the withdrawal of Kurdish units and their weapons 30 kilometers away from the border,” it said.
The Turkish military said it would not resume its offensive “at this stage” after the US-brokered cease-fire expired Tuesday night. However, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said that Turkish forces would “neutralize” any Syrian Kurdish fighters they come across in areas that Turkey now controls.
President Erdogan said the attack would start again if the Kurdish pullback does not take place.
“Whether its our agreement with the United States or with Russia, if the promises given are not carried out, there will be no change concerning the steps we need to take,” he told journalists, according to the newspaper Hurriyet.
Erdogan said he had also asked Putin what would happen if the Syrian Kurdish fighters donned Syrian army uniforms and remained in the border area. Putin responded by saying that he would not let that happen, Erdogan said.
Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said the deal with Russia would continue until a lasting political solution for Syria is reached. He also said that Turkey agreed not to conduct joint patrols in the city of Qamishli at the eastern end of the border, because of Russian concerns they could lead to a confrontation between Turkish troops and Syrian government forces in the area.