Associated Press reports from Pakistan that a bomb attack at a mosque in the Aka Khel area of Khyber has killed at least 29 people and wounded about 50 others. The French news agency AFP quoted a local official as saying the explosion happened as about 80 people were gathered around a village mosque and nearby bazaar and cattle market. A group known as Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam), with ideological ties with the Taliban, has a base nearby. There is speculation that the attack may have been part of the fued between two rival groups. But NATO supplies are transported through the area to Afghanistan, where a US-led operation by 15000 troops is going on around Marjah. According to the AFP correspondent, militants have been pursuing a bombing campaign to avenge the Pakistan government’s alliance with the United States in the ‘war on terror’. A few days ago, the capture of a leading Afghan Taliban military commander Mullah Baradar was announced.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s civilian government has today raised fresh concerns to the American envoy Richard Holbrooke about Afghan refugees and fighters escaping the NATO military assault on Marjah.
The propaganda war between the opposing sides continues. The BBC reports NATO officials as saying that Taliban militants fighting in Marjah are running out of ammunition. The officials claim that on the basis of eavesdropping on Taliban communications they understand that the Taliban forces in the combat zone have called for support. The report cannot be independently verified. In their briefings to journalists, including those embedded with the international forces, NATO officials have been claiming significant successes on the one hand, and stiff Taliban resistance on the other.
A renowned investigative reporter Gareth Porter of the Inter Press Service, just back from Afghanistan, tries to clear up the fog of disinformation. He reports that there is growing anger in Kabul against occupation and the way in which the US troops have ‘conducted themselves’ there.
He notes that Marjah is a town of 80000 population in a vast province [Helmand]. If 15000 foreign troops are needed to impose order in one limited area, then imagine the size of forces required to impose order in nearly 30 of Afghanistan’s provinces in Taliban control.
Porter’s view is that the Marjah operation is meant to prepare the American public opinion to accept negotiations with the Taliban [after the United States has declared ‘victory’ over the militants]. Gareth Porter’s interview with The Real News is also available at PULSEMEDIA.