Saturday , December 16 2017

Pakistan attacks kill 85 – US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan quits

The explosion occurred in front of the office of the police chief in Quetta, which is capital of mineral-rich southern Balochistan, a province that is rife with separatist and Islamist insurgency. (AFP)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, June 24, (Agencies): The death toll from twin blasts in the northwestern town of Parachinar climbed to 67 overnight, bringing the overall death toll from three separate attacks in Pakistan on Friday to 85, with several others in critical condition, officials said.

Shahid Khan, a government official in Parachinar, confirmed the toll Saturday, saying residents who had been preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan were now in mourning. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, claimed the twin bombings at a crowded market in the Shiite-dominated town, linking them to sectarian fighting in Syria.

Dr Sabir Hussain, an official at a government-run hospital in Parachinar, said they had received 261 victims of the twin blasts, with 62 listed in critical condition. Another 14 people were killed Friday in a suicide car bombing near the office of the provincial police chief in the southwestern city of Quetta, police spokesman Shahzada Farhat said.

That attack was claimed by a breakaway Taleban faction and the Islamic State group. Gunmen in the port city of Karachi attacked police officers at a roadside restaurant, killing four of them before fleeing, senior police officer Asif Ahmed said. Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, a military spokesman, linked the attacks to alleged militant sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan and promised greater border security. The two countries often accuse each other of turning a blind eye to militants.

Security forces raided a militant hideout in the northwestern city of Peshawar before dawn Saturday, triggering a shootout in which three Pakistani Taliban were killed and two police officers were wounded, senior police official Sajjad Khan said. He said the militants were making bombs that likely would have been used to target holiday festivities.

Khan said the identity of the slain militants was not immediately known. But intelligence officials said one of the men has been identified as a wanted militant commander linked to the IS group. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attacks, which came just days before Eid-al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

US special envoy quits
Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan stepped down on Friday, just as the United States is preparing to send thousands more troops to the region. A senior State Department official told AFP that acting special representative Laurel Miller left the post without a replacement being named. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Miller is returning to a position at the Rand Corporation and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has not yet decided what to do with post. The office was created when US officials decided that the confl icts in Afghanistan and Pakistan are inextricably linked and ought to be dealt with together. President Donald Trump came to office planning to slash diplomatic spending and Tillerson plans to cut several special envoy roles.

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