Afghanistan, Iraq election violence, Fallujah, Taliban arrest

New bomb attacks have killed or wounded scores of people on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier and in Iraq, where the number of American combat troops is to be reduced by half by August 2010 and a total withdrawal is envisaged by the end of 2011 under the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement.

The BBC said a suicide bomb attack in the Hangu district of north-west Pakistan killed at least 12 people and injured 25 others, according to initial reports. Al-Jazeera Television News in English put the number of dead at least 10, with scores wounded. The target was a convoy of vehicles travelling from Tall in the Hangu district to the town of Parachinar. Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province has witnessed numerous bombings by insurgents over the past year. Last week, a suicide attack on a police station in the Karak area killed three people. Parachinar has a history of violence against Shi’a people in recent years. The road was closed to all traffic in 2008 and 2009 because of Taliban attacks.

Iran’s Press TV, meanwhile, reports that another Afghan Taliban leader has been detained today as part of a recent crackdown on the group’s leadership hiding in the country. Quoting unnamed Pakistani and American intelligence officials, the reports said Agha Jan Mohtasim was arrested in the southern city of Karachi, where Mullah Baradar was captured last month. Mohtasim served as finance minister for the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan before its overthrow in the US-led invasion in 2001.

In Iraq’s parliamentary elections, early polling by members of security forces was marred by violence. At least 14 people were killed in Baghdad on the first day of voting on March 4. Suicide bombers attacked two polling stations in different areas of the city, killing at least 7 people and wounding many others. Earlier yesterday, a mortar attack on a crowded market also killed 7 and wounded at least 10 people.

Today, Press TV reports that unidentified militants attacked a polling station in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. According to police, gunmen attacked the polling station in al-Mithaq neighborhood in eastern Mosul. They also threw a hand grenade, leaving one of the guards wounded. The rest of Iraq votes on Sunday.

The BBC’s diplomatic editor John Simpson is one of several correspondents to report from the Iraqi town of Fallujah on the long-terms effects of the intense fighting between American forces and Sunni insurgents – including a disturbing number of cases of birth defects.

Fallujah is less than 40 miles from Baghdad, but it can still be dangerous to get to. As a result, there has been no authoritative medical investigation, certainly by any Western team, into the allegations that the weapons used by the Americans are still causing serious problems. Simpson says the Iraqi government line is that there are only one or two extra cases of birth defects per year in Fallujah, compared with the national average. In Fallujah General Hospital, Simpson heard about two or three new cases every day. Most of the children brought there exhibit cardiac problems and limb and eye diformities.

Here are real-life images of the consequences of high-tech war that the BBC and other major news organizations in the western world will never show, citing reasons of taste. So the responsibility falls upon others, like independent producers of this film by Journoyman Pictures.

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