Thursday, March 29, 2012
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com The spring “fighting season” in Afghanistan may have begun. In one of the first large-scale assaults since temperatures began warming up across the country, dozens of insurgents armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades staged a bold attack on a NATO supply convoy in western Afghanistan, Western and Afghan officials said Thursday. At least three Afghan security guards were killed in Wednesday’s ambush in a mountainous area of the Gulistan district of Farah province, according to Rauf Ahmadi, a regional spokesman for the Afghan army. He said the assault was successfully repelled and about 30 insurgents were killed. NATO aircraft responded to appeals for help from those in the convoy, the NATO force’s western command said in a statement. The attack took place along a major highway, local officials said. The desperate call for Western air power underscored the challenges faced by Afghan security forces and private security personnel as they prepare to take over responsibility for safeguarding much of the country. The NATO force is seeking to largely wrap up its combat role in the coming year. Meanwhile, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force reported the death of a service member on Thursday in a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan. Although Western and Afghan forces managed to reclaim large swaths of territory in the south over the last two years, the insurgents have been filtering back into the region, the Taliban’s traditional heartland. Fighting in Afghanistan between insurgents and Western troops usually tapers off during the colder months and resumes with the arrival of spring and the melting of the snow in mountain passes.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk US military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned "guardian angels" to watch over troops as they sleep, among a series of other increased security measures, in the wake of rogue Afghan soldiers targeting Nato forces. The added protections are part of a directive issued in recent weeks by Gen John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official. The so-called guardian angels provide an extra layer of security, watching over the troops as they sleep, when they are exercising, and going about their day. Among the new measures introduced, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons in several Afghan ministries. They have also been told to rearrange their office desks so they face the door. Although Gen Allen did not detail the new measures in a briefing earlier this week, he acknowledged changes had been made. "We have taken steps necessary on our side to protect ourselves with respect to, in fact, sleeping arrangements, internal defences associated with those small bases in which we operate," Gen Allen said, adding that now someone is "always overwatching our forces."The security measures come after the US military mistakenly burned Korans last month, triggering a wave of anti-American demonstrations and riots. On February 25, two US military advisers were gunned down following the Korans at their desks inside a Kabul ministry building. So far this year, 16 Nato service members have been shot and killed by Afghan soldiers and policemen or militants disguised in their uniforms. In two separate incidents on Monday, Afghan security forces shot and killed one American and two British troops.
http://www.dawn.com The atmosphere in Balochistan province turned tense Thursday as angry demonstrations were held protesting the killings of five Hazara Shias, in what police described as the latest sectarian attack in the volatile southwest province. Enraged protestors resorted to arson and destruction of public property in many areas. A motor-cycle was torched outside the PMC and business centres and market shut down after the attack. Angry Shia protesters shot dead a policeman in the Hazara Town neighbourhood of Quetta, where police tried to break up a road block erected by a mob, local police station chief Ameer Mohammad Dasti told AFP. “Some protesters fired in the air in anger and one of the bullets wounded a policeman, who was taken to hospital but died,” Dasti said. Dozens of other Shia muslims also demonstrated in Quetta’s main Meezan Chowk square and outside the provincial police chief’s office, witnesses said. The Hazara Democratic Party condemned the attack and announced a ‘shutter down’ strike call for Friday, 30th March. Eight people lost their lives in separate incidents of firing by unidentified armed men in the province on Thursday. The first attack took place in Kali Mubarak area near Spini road, Quetta, where five people including a woman were killed and six people were injured, when some unknown armed men opened fire. According to police sources, a Suzuki pick up was on its way to the city, from Hazara town when it was ambushed by armed gunmen on Spini Road near Kali Mubarak. The indiscriminate firing killed two on the spot, while three of the injured lost their lives on their way to the Combined Military Hospital. The condition of three other injured was also believed to be critical. The victims belonged to the minority Shia Hazara ethnicity. The second attack took place in Mastung district of Balochistan, where the vehicle of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization came under attack. The gunmen opened fire on the UN staff as they were riding in a car through Mastung district, killing two people, said police officer Rustam Khan. “A driver and a staff member of FAO were killed and another staffer wounded after gunmen fired at their vehicle,” police official Shakir Ullah told AFP. It was not immediately clear why they were targeted and so far no one has claimed responsibility, he said. The two killed included a member of the group’s project staff and a hired driver, said a UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Another staff member was wounded, he said. The injured was shifted to Civil Hospital Mastung and was said to be in critical condition. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.