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History > 2017 > USA > International > Global terrorism (I)




Militants Kill 305 at Sufi Mosque

in Egypt’s Deadliest Terrorist Attack


NOV. 24, 2017

The New York Times




CAIRO — Militants detonated a bomb inside a crowded mosque in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday and then sprayed gunfire on panicked worshipers as they fled, killing at least 305 people and wounding at least 128 others. Officials called it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

The scale and ruthlessness of the assault, in an area racked by an Islamist insurgency, sent shock waves across the nation — not just for the number of deaths but also for the choice of target. Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, where the Islamic State has targeted Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims but avoided Muslim places of worship.

The attack injected a new element into Egypt’s struggle with militants because most of the victims were Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical form of Islam that the Islamic State and other Sunni extremist groups deem heretical. And it underscored the failure of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has justified his harsh crackdown on political freedom in the name of crushing Islamic militancy, to deliver on his promises of security.

“The scene was horrific,” said Ibrahim Sheteewi, a resident of Bir al-Abed, the small north Sinai town where the attack took place. “The bodies were scattered on the ground outside the mosque. I hope God punishes them for this.”

Hours later, the Egyptian military carried out several airstrikes near Bir al-Abed targeting militants fleeing in four-wheel-drive vehicles, an Egyptian military official said.

On Saturday, Egypt’s top prosecutor, Nabil Sadek, said in a statement that the death toll had risen and included at least 27 children. A witness said he had helped gather the bodies of 25 of them.

Between 25 and 30 militants carried out the attack, the statement said. They barged in carrying automatic weapons and the Islamic State flag.

“The perpetrators of the terrorist attack posted themselves in front of the door of the mosque and its 12 windows,” the statement said.

World leaders condemned the mosque attack, with President Trump denouncing it as “horrible and cowardly.” He said later that it explained why the United States needed a border wall with Mexico and restrictions on immigration, which he referred to as “the ban.”

Mr. Sisi has struggled to impose his authority over Sinai since he came to power in a military takeover in 2013. Islamist militants who had found a safe haven in Sinai for attacks on Israel then turned their guns on the Egyptian armed forces.

But even by recent standards in Egypt, where militants have blown up Christian worshipers as they knelt at church pews and gunned down pilgrims in buses, the attack on Friday was unusually ruthless.

“I can’t believe they attacked a mosque,” a Muslim cleric in Bir al-Abed said by phone, requesting anonymity for fear he could also be attacked.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but in the past year a local affiliate of the Islamic State has killed a number of Sufis in the area and singled out the district where the attack took place as a potential target.

The attack started midday during Friday Prayers when a bomb — probably set off by a suicide bomber, security officials said — ripped through Al Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed, 125 miles northeast of Cairo. As worshipers fled, they were confronted by masked gunmen who, witnesses said, had pulled up outside in five four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The gunmen set fire to cars parked outside the mosque to hinder escape, and opened fire on ambulances as they arrived on the scene, a government official said on state television.

Mayna Nasser, 40, who was shot twice in the shoulder, drifted in and out of consciousness as he was rushed to a hospital. “My children were there; my children were there,” he said, according to Samy, a volunteer emergency worker who drove him there and who declined to give his last name.

Local emergency services were so overwhelmed that some of the wounded had to be transported to the hospital in the back of a cattle truck, he said.

Many were taken to the general hospital in the main northern Sinai town of El Arish, where medics described chaotic scenes as staff struggled to deal with a flood of dead and wounded, many with extensive burns or severed limbs.

“We are swamped,” said one medical official, speaking by phone on condition of anonymity. “We don’t know what to say. This is insane.”

Other victims, like Mohammed Abdel Salam, a 22-year-old construction worker, ended up in a hospital in the nearby city of Ismailia. “I wish I never stopped to pray,” he said. “I’m not even a Sufi. I was just there by accident.”
Most worshipers at the mosque were Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical form of Islam that some extremists consider heretical. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

Mr. Sisi convened an emergency meeting of top security officials, including the interior minister, spy chief and defense minister. “The military and the police will take revenge,” he said in a televised speech.

Until a spate of attacks on Christian churches this year, Egyptian militants had avoided large-scale assaults on Egyptian civilians, perhaps because such attacks tend to backfire. After a massacre in Luxor that killed 62 people, mostly tourists, in 1997, President Hosni Mubarak began a sweeping crackdown that crushed an Islamist insurgency centered in southern Egypt.

When a new insurgency flared in north Sinai after the military takeover in 2013, its leaders were careful to focus their attacks on uniformed security forces. But as those militants embraced the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, they have gradually set aside that lesson.

An Islamist militia in Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014 and has since proved to be one of its most effective local affiliates. The group’s deadliest attack targeted a Russian jetliner that crashed shortly after takeoff from Sharm el Sheikh in 2015, killing all 224 people on board.

In an interview published in an Islamic State magazine last January, a commander in Sinai outlined the group’s hatred for Sufis and their practices, including the veneration of tombs, the sacrificial slaughter of animals and what he termed “sorcery and soothsaying.”

The interview, in English, identifies Rawda, the district where Friday’s attack occurred, as one of three areas where Sufis live in Sinai that the group intended to “eradicate.”

It featured a photograph of a black hooded figure brandishing a sword over the kneeling figure of an elderly Sufi cleric, Sulayman Abu Hiraz, who was executed in Sinai in late 2016. The Islamic State said the cleric, said to be 100 years old, had been killed for practicing witchcraft.

Many residents of Bir al-Abed, on the main road through northern Sinai, are Bedouins from the Abu Greir tribe, which is predominantly Sufi. Residents said that despite recent Islamic State threats, the town had been largely peaceful.

The Islamic State, a Sunni movement, has long considered Sufis, along with Shiite Muslims, apostates, and has a history of attacking their mosques in other countries. Sufis may be Sunni or Shiite but most are Sunni.

Since 2016, when the militant group released a video describing Sufism as a “disease,” it has claimed attacks that have killed at least 130 worshipers at Sufi shrines, most of them in Pakistan. Elsewhere, the Islamic State has made a spectacle of bulldozing Sufi shrines, describing their removal as a form of purifying the faith.

Egyptian security forces have closely monitored Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, amid worries that an influx of battle-hardened jihadis could insert a volatile new element into Egypt’s militant mix.

In October, Mr. Sisi ordered a major reshuffle of his security team after an ambush in the desert left at least 16 Egyptian security officials dead. That attack was later claimed by a previously unknown group called Ansar al-Islam, which is believed to have links to Al Qaeda.

Friday’s attack was a blow to Egypt’s hopes that it could stem the tide of Islamist violence in Sinai through the government’s sponsorship of a Palestinian peace initiative involving Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

Islamic State militants have previously used tunnels into Gaza to obtain weapons and get medical treatment for wounded fighters. One benefit for Egypt of the peace initiative, which Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate has mediated, is greater control over those tunnels.

In a statement, Hamas denounced the attack as a “criminal explosion” that “violates all heavenly commandments and human values” because it attacked a mosque. “It is a grave challenge to Muslims worldwide,” the group said.



Follow Declan Walsh on Twitter: @declanwalsh.

Declan Walsh reported from Cairo, and Nour Youssef from Ismailia, Egypt. David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from London, Rukmini Callimachi from New York, and David M. Halbfinger from Jerusalem.

A version of this article appears in print on November 25, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Militants Attack Mosque in Egypt, Leaving 235 Dead.

Militants Kill 305 at Sufi Mosque in Egypt’s Deadliest Terrorist Attack,
November 24, 2017,






Terror Attack Kills 8

and Injures 11 in Manhattan


OCT. 31, 2017

The New York Times





A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the rampage a terrorist attack and federal law enforcement authorities were leading the investigation. Investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State, two law enforcement officials said. But investigators had not uncovered evidence of any direct or enabling ties between Mr. Saipov and ISIS and were treating the episode as a case of an “inspired” attacker, two counterterrorism officials said.

Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference, “Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

Five of the people killed were Argentine tourists who traveled to New York for a 30-year high school reunion celebration, said a senior official in Santa Fe Province, where they were from. The Argentine authorities said they were Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi. Martín Ludovico Marro, a sixth member of the group, was wounded. Belgian officials said one of those killed and three of the injured were from Belgium.

Mr. Saipov came to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010, and had a green card that allowed permanent legal residence. He had apparently lived in Paterson, N.J., and Tampa, Fla. An official said Mr. Saipov rented a truck from a Home Depot in Passaic, N.J., where a white Toyota minivan believed to be his was found parked.

The truck came crashing to a stop near the corner of Chambers and West Streets by Stuyvesant High School. Sirus Minovi, 14, a freshman there who was hanging out with friends, said people scattered.

“We heard people screaming, ‘gun’ ‘shooter’ and ‘run away,’” Sirus said. “We thought it was a Halloween prank.”

He realized it was not a joke when he saw the man staggering through the intersection, waving guns and screaming words he could not make out. A passer-by approached the attacker, apparently trying to calm him, Sirus said, until the man realized the attacker had a gun. The man “put his hands up and was backing away,” Sirus said.

Almost immediately, as investigators began to look into Mr. Saipov’s history, it became clear that he had been on the radar of federal authorities. Three officials said he had come to the federal authorities’ attention as a result of an unrelated investigation, but it was not clear whether that was because he was a friend, an associate or a family member of someone under scrutiny or because he himself had been the focus of an investigation.

Over the last two years, a terrorism investigation by the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Police Department and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn resulted in charges against five men from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan of providing material support to ISIS. Several of the men have pleaded guilty. It is unclear whether Mr. Saipov was connected with that investigation.

Martin Feely, a spokesman for the New York F.B.I. office, declined to comment on whether Mr. Saipov was known to the bureau.

F.B.I. agents were expected to search Mr. Saipov’s home in Paterson, N.J., and his car on Tuesday night, a law enforcement official said. A phone, which was recovered at the scene of the attack, also would be searched, another official said.

The attack unfolded as nearby schools were letting out on a Halloween afternoon. It ended five blocks north of the World Trade Center. The driver left a roughly mile-long crime scene: a tree-lined bike path strewn with bodies, mangled bicycles and bicycle parts, from wheels twisted like pretzels to a dislodged seat.

Mr. Saipov, a slim, bearded man, was seen in videos running through traffic after the attack with a paintball gun in one hand and a pellet gun in the other. Six people died at the scene and two others died at a hospital, officials said. The authorities credited the officer who shot him with saving lives.

“He was Johnny-on-the-spot and he takes the guy down,” a city official said.

Coming five months after a car rammed into pedestrians in Times Square, killing one, Tuesday’s attack again highlighted the danger of a vehicle attack on busy city streets. The Times Square attack was not an act of terrorism. But both events brought to mind the terrorist attack last year in Nice, France, in which a cargo truck killed scores of people celebrating Bastille Day.

The episodes also evoked calls from terrorist magazines, including in an edition of Rumiyah, a magazine used by ISIS, for attackers to mow down pedestrians with trucks, continue the attacks with a knife or a gun and claim responsibility by shouting or leaving leaflets.

Students in Halloween costumes streamed out of nearby schools after lockdowns were lifted and huddled with parents. Their faces, once painted for the holiday, were streaked with tears.

Emily, 12, a seventh-grader at I.S. 289 whose father asked that her last name not be used, had been walking on her usual route home when other students turned and ran in the other direction.

“All the kids were screaming, ‘Run!’, ‘Gun!’ ‘Run inside,’” she said, still wearing cat ears. She said mothers pushing strollers and children in costumes ran in a herd back toward the school.

President Trump responded to the attack on Twitter: “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo cautioned at a news conference, “There’s no evidence that suggests a wider plot or a wider scheme.” In the aftermath, city and state law enforcement agencies increased security at high-profile locations.

Terrorism analysts noted that on Monday a French pro-ISIS media unit, known as the Centre Mediatique An-Nur, put out a specific threat for Halloween, mentioning the date on a banner spread on the encrypted app Telegram and on ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts.

Mr. Saipov wove a deadly path on a stretch usually bustling with commuters, runners and cyclists, drawn by the downtown offices nearby or the shimmering river.

He turned onto the bike path alongside the West Side Highway at Houston Street just after 3 p.m. and sped south, striking numerous pedestrians and cyclists, many of them in the back, the authorities said. People scattered and dived to the asphalt.

The truck, labeled with a sign saying, “Rent me starting at $19,” rammed into the bus near Chambers Street. The bus serves two schools in Lower Manhattan and transports students with special needs. Two adults and two children on the bus were injured, the authorities said.



Reporting was contributed by Rukmini Callimachi, Jim Dwyer, Luis A. Ferré-Sadurní, J. David Goodman, Adam Goldman, Alexandra S. Levine, Daniel Politi and Eric Schmitt.

A version of this article appears in print on November 1, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Mile-Long Manhattan Truck Attack Kills 8.

Terror Attack Kills 8 and Injures 11 in Manhattan,
Oct. 31, 2017,






Twin Mosque Attacks

Kill Scores

in One of Afghanistan’s

Deadliest Weeks


OCT. 20, 2017

The New York Times




KABUL, Afghanistan — Just like any other day, Zareen Gul, 60, held the hand of her grandson, Ali Seyar Nazari, 10, and left home to attend the early evening prayer in their neighborhood mosque in the west of Kabul.

This time, however, they did not return home. Their family found their remains, barely identifiable from the clothes they wore, at a hospital after an Islamic State suicide bomber targeted the prayer.

Ms. Gul and young Seyar became the latest victims of what has been one of Afghanistan’s deadliest weeks. The death toll from twin attacks on mosques late on Friday, just hours apart, was raised on Saturday to at least 67 people killed and dozens wounded. As many as 88 may have died in the two attacks.

More than 200 people, both civilians and security personnel, have been killed this week in Afghanistan in six attacks. A precise casualty total is hard to get, as varying levels of violence rage in more than half the country’s provinces.

“This week alone, hundreds of Afghan civilians going about their daily lives, including practicing their religious faith, have fallen victims to brutal acts of violence,” António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said in a statement. “The cycle of violence must end and dialogue commence.”

Late Saturday afternoon, another suicide bombing was carried out in Kabul, targeting a minibus carrying students from the city’s military academy. “Fourteen officers were killed. We don’t have information on the number of wounded,” said Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry.

The country’s security forces have suffered heavy casualties this week, with at least 89 killed in three Taliban attacks nationwide.

Ms. Gul and Seyar were among the 58 killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the Imam Zaman Shiite mosque in the west of Kabul.

The other mosque attack happened in Dolaina district, in the western province of Ghor, and the exact casualty toll was contested. Two senior security officials put the death toll at 21, while the district’s governor told local Afghan media that 30 people had been killed. However, Bismillah Khan, the head of criminal investigations at the district’s police force, insisted only 9 people had died.

While no group claimed responsibility for the Ghor attack, the Islamic State, in a statement, said that one of its fighters in what it called Khorasan Province, an ancient name for the region that includes Afghanistan, had detonated an explosive vest inside the mosque in Western Kabul.

“There were about 300 worshipers inside the mosque, with women on one side,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, a neighborhood leader who was surveying the destruction on Saturday. The pulpit, the walls, as well as much of the carpet in the front of the hall was covered in blood.

“The figure I got from the security forces today is that 58 people are killed and 64 wounded in last night’s suicide attack,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “Among those killed were 6 children underage 12 and four women.”

Sayed Nazer, a witness, said he was in front of the mosque arriving for prayer when the explosion knocked him to the ground.

“When I stood up, some people were rushing inside the mosque and some running outside. I saw three police pickup trucks full of bodies taken away, before even ambulances arrived.”

The number of attacks this year against the places of worship of the Shiite minority have alarmed many Afghans. The United Nations, before Friday’s attack, said at least 84 Shiites have been killed and nearly 200 injured in attacks on mosques this year.

While the Islamic State has claimed most of the attacks targeting Shiites in Afghanistan, both Western and Afghan officials still have doubts about the group’s role in Afghanistan. They question whether there is coordination with Iraq and Syria, or if the group claiming affiliation with the Islamic State overlaps with some of the more extreme elements of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

In August, Islamic State suicide bombers stormed a mosque in north Kabul during Friday prayers, leaving at least 40 worshipers dead. Weeks earlier, an attack on another mosque in the western city of Herat killed scores.

After the explosion at Imam Zaman mosque, emotions ran high outside. Many people had escaped the mosque in Kabul barefoot, and some protested what they saw as the government’s perceived inability to protect the country’s Shiites, chanting, “Death to Ashraf Ghani,” Afghanistan’s president.

On Saturday, relatives prepared for burial the bodies of Ms. Gul and Seyar at another mosque nearby. The two were to be buried in their family cemetery in the west of the city this afternoon.

“Seyar was a smart kid, and he would often ask: ‘Why is there a war going on, what are they fighting for?’ ” Khalilullah Amini, a member of the family, said.

“He went to pray, and this is what happened,” his distraught uncle, Asadullah Nazari, said. “He wanted to become an engineer in the future. His books, his pens, his bag is left at home.”

Fatima Faizi contributed reporting.

Twin Mosque Attacks Kill Scores
in One of Afghanistan’s Deadliest Weeks,
Oct. 30, 2017,






Mogadishu Truck Bombings

Are Deadliest Attack in Decades


OCT. 15, 2017

The New York Times





MOGADISHU, Somalia — When a double truck bombing shattered the night in Mogadishu on Saturday, rescue workers began the grim search for survivors that has become all too common as Somalia battles an Islamist insurgency. They picked through burned-out cars and hunted as best they could in a collapsed hotel.

But it was only on Sunday, as emergency workers pulled body after body from the rubble of a nearly leveled downtown street, that the magnitude of the latest attack came into focus. The numbers of dead surged from 20 on Saturday night to more than 270 and counting, according to government officials. More than 300 people were injured.

“This is the deadliest incident I ever remember” since the 1990s, when the government collapsed, a shaken Senator Abshir Ahmed said in a Facebook posting.

The attack came as the United States under President Trump has made a renewed push to defeat the Shabab, Somali-based militants who have terrorized the country and East Africa for years, killing civilians across borders, worsening famine and destabilizing a broad stretch of the region. While no one had yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, suspicion immediately fell on the group, which frequently targets the capital, Mogadishu.

The Shabab — which once controlled most of the city — have lost much of their territory in recent years, the result of attacks by African Union forces, a fitfully strengthening Somali Army and increasing American air power. But the group remains a potent killing force, despite years of American counterterrorism operations.

Some of the militants have proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda, while others support the Islamic State.

As the death toll grew Sunday, the Somali president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning. He donated blood for the victims and asked his fellow citizens to do the same.

“Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop nothing to cause our people pain and suffering. Let’s unite against terror,” Mr. Mohamed said on Twitter. “Time to unite and pray together. Terror won’t win.”

On Sunday, fires were still burning at the scene of the bombings. Senator Ahmed, deputy speaker of the upper house of Parliament, wrote on his Facebook page that the director of one hospital had told him at least 130 bodies there were burned beyond recognition.

Witnesses said the attack was made even worse by the number of cars stuck on the road where one of the bombs exploded.

“There was a traffic jam, and the road was packed with bystanders and cars,” a waiter at a nearby restaurant said. “It’s a disaster.”

Doctors at hospitals in Mogadishu struggled to save the wounded on Sunday. The Associated Press quoted one nurse as saying staff members had seen “unspeakable horrors” in a hospital where the smell of blood was strong. The news agency reported that exhausted doctors fought to keep their eyes open even as the screams of victims echoed through the halls.

Hopes for Somalia tend to ebb and flow after more than 25 years of chaos since its central government collapsed. In recent years, there has been a bit more optimism with a new government in power. Still, in the fragile world of Somali politics, the threat of the Shabab never went away. Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded in attacks on the capital this year alone.

Analysts thought the latest attack might have been in retaliation both for the loss of territory and for increasing American drone attacks since Mr. Trump loosened restrictions meant to strictly limit civilian casualties.

United States Special Operations forces have launched 15 airstrikes against Shabab leaders, fighters and training camps since the beginning of the year, including five strikes last month, according to The Long War Journal, which tracks American strikes against militants in Africa.

One of the strikes, on July 30, killed Ali Jabal, a Shabab commander who led forces and conducted attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia. After he was killed, the Pentagon’s Africa Command said his removal from the battlefield would significantly degrade the Shabab’s ability to coordinate attacks in the capital and in southern Somalia.

Counterterrorism specialists said the size of the bombings Saturday, which were well beyond what the Shabab have conducted before, suggested that the group might have received help from operatives with the Qaeda arm in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is renowned for its prowess with explosives.

Africa specialists said the attack could backfire on the Shabab — and that may be one reason the group has not claimed responsibility, at least so far.

“When the group feels under pressure, it lashes out with more significant attacks,” said Tricia Bacon, a Somali specialist at American University in Washington and a former State Department counterterrorism analyst. She called the attack “a bad miscalculation” by the Shabab that will likely shore up public resolve for the government’s commitment to fighting the militants.

Some analysts also suggest that the Shabab may have been trying to take advantage of Somalia’s most recent political instability; the federal and regional governments have disagreed over which side to support in a political standoff between Qatar and a group of countries led by Saudi Arabia. One of those countries, the United Arab Emirates, supplied weapons to some of the regional governments in 2015.

American officials condemned the Mogadishu bombings, calling them “cowardly attacks” that “reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism.”

Previous attacks on the capital this year have killed or wounded at least 771 people, according to data compiled by the Long War Journal. The operations included remotely detonated vehicles, suicide car bombings and suicide assaults. At least 11 of these attacks have been assassination attempts against Somali military, intelligence, and government personnel, as well as Somali journalists.

The blast occurred two days after the head of the United States Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and after the country’s defense minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.

About 200 to 300 members of American Special Operations forces work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes.

A member of the United States Navy SEALs was killed and two troops were wounded in May during a raid on one of the Shabab’s compounds. It appeared to be the first American combat death in Somalia since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident.

Hussein Mohamed reported from Mogadishu, Somalia, Eric Schmitt from Washington, and Mohamed Ibrahim from Helsinki, Finland.

A version of this article appears in print on October 16, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Nearly 300 Die In Truck Blasts In Mogadishu.

Mogadishu Truck Bombings Are Deadliest Attack in Decades,
0CT. 15, 2017,






Police See Wider Plot in Spain

and Say Carnage Could Have Been Worse


AUG. 18, 2017

The New York Times





BARCELONA, Spain — When an earthshaking explosion on Wednesday blew apart a house outside Alcanar, a town surrounded by olive groves and holiday homes overlooking the Mediterranean, the police first blamed it on a gas leak.

“Nothing ever happens here,” Mayor Alfons Monserrat said.

The Spanish police now believe that tiny Alcanar may have been the incubator for a conspiracy far more ambitious than even the van attacks in Catalonia that killed 14 people and injured more than 80. All but one of the casualties occurred Thursday afternoon on the Ramblas, Barcelona’s colorful central thoroughfare. It was Spain’s worst terrorist attack in more than a decade, and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

The Alcanar blast, they suspect, was a mistake by the plotters, who had intended to make a powerful bomb, place it in a van and detonate it in the crowded center of Barcelona. That plan disintegrated along with at least 12 butane gas canisters that were discovered in the ruins of the house in Alcanar on Wednesday night.

Four men have been detained in the case, and three more who have been identified remain at large, according to Maj. Josep Lluis Trapero, a senior police official in Spain’s Catalonia region. Investigators are still trying to determine the full extent of the network. Five of the suspects are dead, at least three of them appearing to be so young that they could not have grown beards. They were killed by the police during a second attack, in the seaside holiday town of Cambrils early Friday.

While some of the other recent European terrorist attacks have been opportunistic hit and runs by individuals acting on their own, this was a comparatively complicated plot that the police say involved at least two cells working in several different locations across Catalonia.

The story also unfolded in Ripoll, hometown of one of the young men who was killed in Cambrils. His brother was arrested after his identity documents were found to have been used to rent the van used to carry out the attack on Las Ramblas. At least one other person from Ripoll has been detained.

There were few indications that the two brothers, Driss Oukabir, 28, and Moussa Oukabir, 17, had come under the influence of radical Islam. Ripoll is a mountain town northwest of Barcelona of about 10,000 people, and Moussa and Driss Oukabir, both of Moroccan descent, lived there with their mother.

Among neighbors, friends, former employers and the local mosque, no one saw any outward sign of budding extremism. The elder brother, Driss, spoke perfect Catalan as well as Spanish and was not religious, according to a childhood friend, Raimon Sánchez, 27. He was known as a small-time marijuana dealer, but nothing more.

“We went to school together; after that everyone went his own direction, but when we saw each other, we would say hello, smoke a joint together,” Mr. Sánchez said. “He was in my home when he was a child — how can a person change that much?”

Moussa was well liked by everyone. He also spoke perfect Catalan, said a neighbor. His sisters, Hafida and Hanane, described him to their former employer at Les Graelles, a local restaurant, as polite, “having really good marks in school” and eager to study. “He didn’t go to parties,” said the restaurant’s manager, Rosa, who said she was afraid to give her last name.

There was no sign that the family was particularly religious, she added. Neither sister wore a head scarf except when they were coming from the mosque and never when they were working.

The family lived in a nondescript apartment building near the southern edge of town that serves as social housing for lower-income people.

There were three Spanish-Moroccan families in the building, and Moussa, the youngest of the Oukabir children, was good friends with them as well as other children who lived there, neighbors said. A 15-year-old Catalan boy in the building said that he used to go swimming with Moussa and played with him by the river that runs through town, and that they rode their bikes together.

“Moussa never spoke about religion,” said the boy’s mother, Marche, who lived in the apartment directly next door. “He was a good kid, just like you or me.”

She said that Moussa and Driss’s parents had recently separated, but that she was shocked when masked police officers burst into the building at 7 a.m. on Friday and broke into the Oukabir apartment. She did not know if they had found anything.

From the open door, it appeared to be a modest apartment with three small bedrooms, two of them with just enough room for a single bed and a flimsy wardrobe. Clothes were strewn all over the floor from the raid. It was not clear whether anyone was present when the police burst in.

At the mosque closest to the family’s home, Ali Yassini, who works with the mosque’s Islamic Council, said he had barely any contact with the brothers. “We don’t know them; we saw them maybe once a year,” he said, adding that among Muslim youth in Ripoll there is a generational divide. “The young ones want to party; these kids, 24 years and younger, they feel they are in jail here.”

On Thursday afternoon, one of the attackers arrived at a branch of Telefurgo, a car rental firm, some 15 miles north of Barcelona. Using the identity documents of Driss Oukabir, he paid 59.90 euros (about $70), on top of a 150-euro deposit, to hire a white Fiat Talento, the firm told Spanish journalists.

Chander Gurnani, 34, who runs a souvenir shop in central Barcelona, first saw that white Fiat Talento at around 5 p.m. on Thursday as it plowed into a young woman, sending her flying through the air. Then it mowed down an old man whose head began to gush blood. Rushing from his shop, Mr. Gurnani, an Indian immigrant, said that he took the man in his arms — before realizing some 30 seconds later that he was already dead.

Demonstrators on Las Ramblas on Friday shouted “No tinc por!” (“I am not afraid!” in Catalan, the regional language.) Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times
So began Thursday’s attack on Las Ramblas, the long boulevard that connects the city’s port with its most central districts. The van veered south from Plaça de Catalunya, the city’s most recognizable square, zigzagging from side to side to hit as many people as possible.

After mowing down at least a dozen people across a stretch of some 1,600 feet and slamming into dozens more, it crashed into displays of cheap souvenirs — phone covers, bracelets, drawings and even oven gloves — skidding to a halt on a public artwork by Joan Miró, the Catalan artist.

The driver quickly melted into the crowds.

A waiter at a nearby restaurant had no idea why so many people were rushing inside. Nobody explained what was going on, remembered Guldeep Singh, 30, who was back at work less than a day after the attack.

“They were screaming,” Mr. Singh said. “They were in shock. They didn’t have words.”

For Mr. Singh, the penny dropped when he looked outside to see two people prostrate on the street. By the time an ambulance arrived 20 minutes later, one of them was dead.

Those stuck in the shops and bars of Las Ramblas had little idea about the events that had led them to flee there.

Outside, however, a picture of a complex operation was beginning to emerge. A second van was discovered in Vic, north of Barcelona; the police now think the assailants used it to flee central Barcelona after the attack.

Photographs of Driss Oukabir, whom police had quickly linked to the van hire, began to circulate, prompting him to turn himself in at a police station in Ripoll. He claimed his documents had been stolen and that he was not the man who hired the van.

Down in Alcanar, another man was arrested in connection to the attack. Then, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, claimed responsibility for the events, in a statement issued through its news agency.

For many survivors, shock and fear now began to give way to relief. A Spanish tour guide, Laia Escribano, had unwittingly taken a group of tourists to the street just minutes afterward and gradually realized how narrow her escape had been.

“I am lucky to be alive,” said Ms. Escribano, 31. “If the attack was 10 minutes later, I would have been right there with the students on the tour.”

But as Thursday rolled into Friday, relief gave way to renewed terror. In Cambrils, a small seaside resort town about 50 miles south of Barcelona, another car attack was unfolding.

At 1 a.m., five assailants in an Audi A3 hit a group of civilians before police officers fatally shot five of them, among them Moussa Oukabir. A pedestrian later died after being hit by the car, and the police have confirmed that the Cambrils attack was committed by the same network that sent a van to Barcelona.

In a night of strange developments, however, the oddest of all was perhaps the news from Alcanar. Twenty-four hours after the authorities considered the explosion there a gas leak, the story came full circle.

Alcanar, the police now suggest, was not just a sleepy holiday town. It may have been a place where the attacks were planned — news that shocked local residents.

“You might think all sorts of things,” said Nuria Gil, 50, one of the few locals who lives here year-round, “but not that you have terrorists as neighbors.”


Alissa J. Rubin reported from Barcelona and Ripoll, Spain; Patrick Kingsley from Barcelona; and Palko Karasz from Alcanar, Spain. Reporting was contributed by Silvia Taulés, Germán Aranda, Raphael Minder and Yaiza Saiz from Barcelona; Rukmini Callimachi from Erbil, Iraq; Benoît Morenne from Paris; Melissa Eddy from Berlin; and Michael Wolgelenter, Declan Walsh, Stephen Castle, Anne-Sophie Bolon, Claire Barthelemy, Thomas Furse and Mark Walsh from London.

A version of this article appears in print on August 19, 2017,
on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Attack in Spain Fits Larger Plot.

Police See Wider Plot in Spain
and Say Carnage Could Have Been Worse,
Aug. 18, 2017,






Fighting, While Funding, Extremists


JUNE 19, 2017

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages | Editorial



Even sophisticated observers admit to confusion and consternation about the Middle East, where rivalries and jealousies among nations have reached new levels of complication. Saudi Arabia and some of its neighbors decide to punish Qatar and some of its citizens, ostensibly for fostering and financing Islamist terrorism. But Saudi Arabia itself has been accused of underwriting extremists. No matter: President Trump, captivated by Saudi royalty, sides with the Saudis — even though the United States has two important bases in Qatar.

Baffling, right? But here is one clear bottom line: The biggest loser in all this may turn out to be the fight against the Islamic State. Nobody likes ISIS. Yet the idea of a united front among Gulf states against the terrorist group has all but evaporated, and hypocrisies and contradictions abound. Here’s a primer on some of the main players.


QATAR This tiny but exceedingly wealthy country definitely has a mixed record. But is it a colossal threat? Last week, the United States agreed to sell it $12 billion worth of F-15 jets and two Navy vessels arrived there for joint military exercises. If Qatar were seen as a serious terrorism threat, that wouldn’t be happening.

True, Qatar has long been accused of funneling money to the Muslim Brotherhood, a loose and influential political network. The Brotherhood has officially forsworn violence. Yet Saudi Arabia, whose royal rulers fear Islamist populism, still brands it a terrorist outfit.

Qatar has also supported radicals in Syria — like the Qaeda offshoot Al Nusra — and groups in Libya and other Arab nations. But the Saudis have long aided competing rebel groups in those countries, including extremists. Aiming to play a regional mediating role, Qatar has also angered the Saudis by fostering ties with other hostile groups, including the Afghan Taliban, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, giving the leaders of some of them airtime on its freewheeling TV network, Al Jazeera.

The Saudis are also annoyed that Qatar talks to Iran, their chief rival, but it’s hardly surprising since the two nations jointly manage a major offshore natural gas reserve.

American judgments about Qatar’s activities have been as mixed as Qatar’s record. In 2014 the State Department branded Qatar a “permissive jurisdiction” for terrorist financing, but has since praised its efforts to prevent such financing and to stop terrorists from crossing its borders as evidence of a “strong partnership.” In February, Daniel Glaser, a former Treasury official, praised Qatar for a “good job” in trying to prevent terrorist financing through controls on its financial sector and local charities and in prosecuting people for illegal transactions. Even so, he complained that terrorist financiers are “operating openly and notoriously” in Qatar and Kuwait, and he urged the two governments to shut down such activities.


SAUDI ARABIA Since the Sept 11 attacks, staged mainly by Saudi-born hijackers, and a series of attacks by Al Qaeda and ISIS against the kingdom, Saudi Arabia has become more serious about extremism; some experts regard it as the top counterterrorism partner in the region. It has taken a zero-tolerance approach to ISIS and joined the American-led coalition fighting the group. Even so, American government reports say financial support for terrorism from Saudis “remains a threat to the kingdom and the international community.” And while this has been ignored by Mr. Trump, Saudi Arabia undermines whatever good work it does by continuing to spend billions of dollars spreading Wahhabism, its ultraconservative brand of Islam — which in turn inspires ISIS, Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists — through a network of imans and mosques in countries like Kosovo, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Dependent on the Wahhabi clerics for legitimacy, the royal family has been slow to reform a religion that teaches that nonbelievers and wayward Muslims should be shunned or fought if they reject its strict message. Experts say some Saudi school texts seem to make a virtue of hating others. The Saudis, aided by American intelligence and arms, may also be creating extremists with their brutal war in Yemen.


IRAN Unlike Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Iran is a Shiite nation. It is thus a natural enemy of Sunni terrorist groups like ISIS, which it is fighting in Iraq. Iran has been the target of two recent devastating attacks on Tehran for which ISIS has claimed credit. At the same time, if other terrorist groups are counted, Iran is a bad actor. It was designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department in 1984, five years after the Iranian revolution, and is one of three countries, along with Sudan and Syria, still on the list.

American experts say that whatever Saudi Arabia or Qatar’s failings, Iran’s are worse because its involvement with extremist groups is sponsored by the government. According to State Department reports, Iran finances, trains and arms Hezbollah and other Shiite forces in Syria who have committed human rights abuses in the fight to prop up Syria’s notorious butcher, President Bashar al-Assad; anti-Israeli Hezbollah forces in Lebanon; and Shiite militants in Bahrain. Historically, Iran has also provided weapons, training and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

Significantly, the Americans are not accusing Russia, Iran’s ally, of terrorism for using its firepower to keep the Assad government in power; no Iranians were named as responsible when the administration in February published a list of 78 major terrorist attacks. And some of Iran’s activities, particularly its war on ISIS, dovetail with Western ambitions.

Each of these three main players has a role to play in the larger effort to defeat and defund terrorists. But there needs to be clarity and honesty about the various sources of the problem, and the various contributions each nation can make to the struggle. Exaggerating or misrepresenting the misdeeds of Qatar and Iran, while giving the Saudis a free pass, will only benefit Saudi Arabia’s efforts to expand its regional influence.



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A version of this editorial appears in print on June 19, 2017, on Page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Fighting, While Funding, Extremists.

Fighting, While Funding, Extremists,
June 19, 2017,






Another Terrorist Attack

Strikes the Heart of London


JUNE 3, 2017

The New YorkTimes



LONDON — Another night of terrorism unfolded in Britain on Saturday with two attacks that killed six civilians in the center of the capital, London police said.

At least one of the dead was killed when a van careered onto the sidewalk along London Bridge, mowing down pedestrians.

The London Ambulance Service said it had brought 48 injured to five hospitals.

The police said they killed three attackers, which they believed to be the total number of assailants.

Witnesses reported that at least one man jumped out of the van wielding a large knife and ran into the nearby Borough Market, a popular spot for pubs and restaurants on the southern side of the Thames.

Heavily armed police responded to the bridge attack, which took place just after 10 p.m., and more officers rushed to investigate reports of stabbings at the market. The police shot and killed three attackers there, within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call, they said.

Though no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, they hit a nation still reeling from the shock of the bombing in Manchester almost two weeks ago when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the doors of an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed, including many children.

Saturday’s attack was reminiscent of another on Westminster Bridge on March 22, when Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car into pedestrians, killing four people. He then stabbed a police officer to death before being shot and killed near Parliament. The police treated that attack, in which 50 were injured, as “Islamist-related terrorism.”

And now, as Britain prepares for national elections in less than a week, it must cope with more attacks in the most ordinary of places, London Bridge on a Saturday night, as people walked about enjoying the spring evening.

The mood in London was shock and anger, with the center of the city saturated all night with the sound of sirens. People were told to run, or hide and silence their cellphones as the police searched for assailants.

There was panic that a third stabbing in the Vauxhall area at about the same time as the assaults near the bridge might have been part of a coordinated attack, but the police later declared that incident unrelated.

The attacks came a few days before a snap election that has major implications for the country’s future outside the European Union. Across London, and Britain, there was a sense of fear that a way of life was under attack, but also a determination to carry on.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called it a “deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners,” and it was also condemned by the leader of the main opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn.

The office of Theresa May, the prime minister, announced that she will chair a meeting of the government emergency response committee, known as Cobra, on Sunday.

A White House spokesman said President Trump was briefed by his national security aides on the unfolding events in London.

He spoke with Mrs. May, offering his condolences for the attacks and praising the response of the police, White House officials said. He offered the full support of the United States government in investigating the attacks.

No motive has been ascribed to the attackers, but on the messaging app Telegram, members and supporters of the Islamic State shared a poster that calls for supporters to attack people with guns, knives and trucks during the month of Ramadan, which began last weekend.

On Saturday night ambulances rushed to the scene, people fled in panic, restaurants and hotels were evacuated, and helicopters flew overhead.

Witnesses described horrible scenes.

Holly Jones, a BBC reporter who was on the bridge when the van crashed, said it was driven by a man and was “probably traveling at about 50 miles an hour.” She said that at least five people were being treated for injuries after the vehicle drove on the sidewalk and hit them.

“He swerved right round me and then hit about five or six people,” Ms. Jones said. “He hit about two people in front of me and then three behind.”

A witness, who identified himself as Andrew, said he was in the area at a bar, heard “a massive bang” and saw a van hitting the rail of the road.

“Next 10 seconds later, there was a guy with a big knife, I mean, a big knife,” he told LBC Radio.

Andrew said he jumped over a fence, got to a footpath and there was “a dead guy lying on the floor.” He hid for a few seconds in bushes nearby, then, he said, “I ran for my life.”

At the market, Ben, who did not give his last name, told the BBC that he and his wife, Natalie, saw someone being stabbed.

“I saw a man in red with quite a large blade — I don’t know the measurement, I guess maybe 10 inches,” Ben said. “He was stabbing a man. He stabbed him about three times fairly calmly.”

Ben added, “He was being stabbed quite coldly and he slumped to the ground.”

He then said someone threw a table and a bottle at the man with the knife, but “then we heard three gunshots and we ran.”

A man named Gerard told the BBC that he saw men stabbing everyone they could and shouting “this is for Allah.”

He saw three men with knives “and they stabbed a girl,” he said. “So I follow them, toward Borough Market, they were running into the pubs and bars and stabbing everyone. They were running up, saying this is for Allah, and they run up and stabbed this girl 10, maybe 15 times.”

Lorna Murray, 44, said she was about to drive over London Bridge when traffic stopped and people ran toward her car. “We ducked down in our car, assuming there was a stabbing,” she said. “Then this young couple started banging on the doors trying to get into our car for safety. We took them in but couldn’t let anyone else in because we had a baby in the back.”

The police told everyone to leave their cars and get away. “When I got out the car everything was a blur, but I saw a woman with blood all over her face,” she said.

Tim Hodge, 37, a security officer at a nearby office building on the south side of the bridge, described “huge crowds” running and screaming. “There was so much panic and so many of the people were drunk, which made them more hysterical,” he said.

Alex Shellum was in the Mudlark pub, underneath London Bridge, with his girlfriend. He told the BBC about an injured woman who came into the pub: “She was bleeding heavily from the neck. It appeared that her throat had been cut.”

Gabriele Sciotto, a photographer returning from a bar, saw the police confronting three men outside the Wheatsheaf bar on Stoney Street and ordering them to get down. Two of the men were shot by police, he said.

“They looked like they had some explosive belts,” Mr. Sciotto said. “The police didn’t know what was going on honestly. They shouted at them to go down, to stop moving. It was very chaotic.”

The police said the suspects were wearing what looked like explosive vests but they were later established to be hoaxes.

Mr. Sciotto took a photograph, which he later posted to Instagram, that appeared to show at least two men on the ground.

“At the moment these people were shot it was just me, the men and the police,” Mr. Sciotto said.



Correction: June 3, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated when a van drove into pedestrians on London Bridge. It was Saturday, not Sunday.


Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle, Stephen Farrell, Ceylan Yeginsu and Jim Yardley from London; Eric Schmitt from Washington; and Rukmini Callimachi, Liam Stack, Megan Specia and Matt Stevens from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on June 4, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: 2 Attacks in London as a Reeling Nation Faces More Terror.

Another Terrorist Attack Strikes the Heart of London,
JUNE 3, 2017,






Deadly Bombing in Kabul

Is One of the Afghan War’s

Worst Strikes


MAY 31, 2017

The New York Times





KABUL, Afghanistan — A truck bomb devastated a central area of Kabul near the presidential palace and foreign embassies on Wednesday, one of the deadliest strikes in the long Afghan war and a reminder of how the capital itself has become a lethal battlefield.

In one moment, more than 80 lives ended, hundreds of people were wounded and many more were traumatized, in the heart of a city defined by constant checkpoints and the densest concentration of Afghan and international forces.

President Ashraf Ghani, whose palace windows were shattered in the blast just as he had finished his morning briefing, called it “a crime against humanity.” President Trump called him to offer condolences.

The bombing happened just as the United States is weighing sending more troops, deepening its entanglement, to try to slow or reverse government losses to the Taliban insurgency this year.

“The attack demonstrates a complete disregard for civilians and reveals the barbaric nature of the enemy faced by the Afghan people,” Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

He applauded the Afghan security forces for having prevented the truck from entering the Green Zone, the area that houses the headquarters of the coalition forces as well as several foreign embassies.

But Kabul’s vulnerability to such an attack spoke volumes to the frustrations of stabilizing the country despite 15 years of American-led military intervention to thwart the Taliban, coupled with hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign aid to a population that for the most part has known only war.

Security has steadily worsened since 2014 and the end of the main NATO combat mission, which at its peak featured more than 100,000 American troops and tens of thousands more from alliance partners like Britain. The current international force in Afghanistan numbers about 13,000 — about 8,400 of them are American — mostly tasked with training and advising the Afghan forces.

The Trump administration and military commanders are debating whether to send up to 5,000 more troops to stem the government’s losses.

Although the main Taliban spokesman claimed the group had nothing to do with the Kabul bomb, the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, blamed the Haqqani wing of the organization. Over the years, the Haqqanis have made an industry of large-scale attacks on the capital, and the militant cell has become integrated in the central leadership of the Taliban.

The deputy interior minister, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, said that besides the more than 80 people killed, with the death toll sure to rise, at least 463 had been wounded. Still, the general said the attacker had actually failed to get all the way to his most likely target: Security cameras showed the truck stopped by police officers who guarded the entrance to the street housing the German and Indian Embassies, as well as compounds for the coalition forces.

But for an explosion that shattered windows within a mile, a few steps off target made little difference.

With most of the city fasting to observe the holy month of Ramadan, residents urgently took up what has become a routine: sweeping broken glass, calling loved ones and calling others in search of news.

In different corners of the city, workers and relatives dug graves for the ones who, with life having become a game of chance, just were not lucky. Parents arrived to escort panicking children home from school, holding their hands and cautiously walking close to walls — as if walls could protect against such violence.

For more than two hours, smoke rose from the blast site, a 13-foot crater centered on a vast circle of destruction. The German Embassy, where officials said employees had retreated deeper into the compound after an earlier warning of a threat against them, was extensively damaged, with dozens of windows blown in.

“There was a big tremble, and then we heard a massive explosion,” Ramin Sangar, a cameraman at a television channel near the bombing site, said as he was loaded into an ambulance. “All the windows are broken. Our studios collapsed.”

As security forces established a wide cordon and ambulances whizzed between hospitals and the street, dozens of people gathered on each side of the cordon, inching closer in hopes of hearing any good news at all about their missing.

There was a heavy security presence, including forces from the United States-led coalition, and helicopters circled overhead. Emotions were running high, as the Afghan security forces and emergency medical workers, too, were working while fasting.

Intelligence officers closely checked the paperwork of emergency workers, fearing that they might have been infiltrated by militants planning a follow-up attack. At one point, after a senior police official tried to pass the cordon with a large entourage of guards, a scuffle broke out, and the police and intelligence officers faced off with their weapons ready. But the situation was quickly defused.

For the residents, much of the search for their loved ones then shifted to the hospitals, and crowds began to grow around the city’s treatment centers.

More than 300 people anxiously waited outside the Emergency Hospital, one of the main trauma centers in the city. Some were weeping and wailing, while others were trying to look up names of loved ones on the lists that employees handed out. Inside the hospital, where the windows had also been shattered by the force of the blast, doctors were attending to dozens of wounded.

Outside Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, the main government hospital, a white-bearded man in his 60s named Azizullah searched for news of his 22-year-old son, Abdullah, who worked at a telecommunications company near the site of the blast.

“I searched all hospitals. He is nowhere,” said Mr. Azizullah, who would crouch and then get up to pace. “Abdullah has two children, a wife and an old mother. What will I tell them?”

Mr. Azizullah received a call from someone who appeared to be inside the hospital, telling him about unrecognizable bodies.

“Can you search the person whose body is cut up?” he asked the caller. “He may be my son. Try to find his documents.”

By the morgue in the hospital, a group of men tried to figure out whether the badly burned body in the back of an ambulance was their friend Ahmad Reshad, an employee of a telecom company in his 30s. One of the men was on the phone with Mr. Reshad’s wife, as others searched the body to try to make out details that could identify him: How much money was carrying? What color tie did he have on? The body had pills in one of his pockets — was Mr. Reshad carrying pills?

They could not identify the body, so it was shipped off for a forensic examination. The men continued their search at another hospital.

In a televised address as the city was preparing to go to sleep, President Ghani came out with a resolute message, calling for unity in the face of attackers who he said were receiving help from outside intelligence forces — frequent shorthand here for Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, which has long maintained ties with the Haqqani network.

The year’s traumatic news began piling up even before the spring fighting season took off: massacres at a fortified army hospital and then an even more heavily fortified army base, another district fallen to the Taliban as stretched security forces collapsed, a city overrun two times on verge of falling again, more civilians killed.

In Germany, the Kabul blast was sure to fuel a debate over the government’s efforts to repatriate Afghans whose applications for asylum had been rejected.

German officials have been at pains to insist that parts of Afghanistan are safe, despite the deteriorating security of the countryside. But hours after the blast, the government in Berlin said that a flight carrying deportees bound for Afghanistan scheduled for Wednesday had been postponed.

About 1,000 German soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO force, and Germany has invested billions in the military and aid to stabilize the country.

The sheer force of the blast on Wednesday was staggering, though it was not unprecedented. In 2015, a similar truck bombing in the Shah Shaheed neighborhood of the city also caused hundreds of casualties and left a strip of shops leveled and houses damaged in a wide radius. Other large truck bombings have targeted the offices of an elite force that provides security to senior government officials, as well as a compound for Western contractors.

Most of the victims appeared to be civilians on their way to work during the morning rush hour. Among those killed were a BBC driver, Mohammed Nazir, and an information technology worker for the Afghan television channel ToloNews, Aziz Navin.

Lotfullah Najafizada, the director of ToloNews, described a painful search for his colleague’s remains. He and his co-workers examined seven mostly unrecognizable bodies at the military hospital before heading over to the civilian side, where the 44th body had just arrived.

“We found Aziz in a large, dirt-colored sack, and his relatives were trying to transport him home,” Mr. Najafizada wrote on Facebook. “The ambulances were busy, and Aziz waited in the hall of the hospital for his final trip home.”

As such routines usually wrap up in Kabul, funeral processions made it to the different corners of the city. In the Karte Naw neighborhood, the body of Mr. Nazir was lifted from his modest two-story home, its outside walls freshly plastered, as women wailed inside. More than 500 people packed into the small yard of the orange mosque for a final prayer half a mile from his home, and then he was driven up the hill for his burial.

Mr. Nazir’s oldest son, Mohammed, 9, was accompanied by a weeping relative. Mohammed, wearing turquoise shorts, did not quite grasp what was happening.

In the northeast of the city, in the sprawling Panjsad family cemetery, Tawab Temuri, a 25-year-old travel agent, was the third victim to be buried on Wednesday.

A fourth grave was dug, and about 60 men waited just below Mr. Temuri’s grave for the body to arrive.


Melissa Eddy contributed reporting from Berlin.

A version of this article appears in print on June 1, 2017,
on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:
Deadly Bombing Is Among Worst Of Afghan War.

Deadly Bombing in Kabul Is One of the Afghan War’s Worst Strikes,
May 31, 2017,






Terror Alert in Britain

Is Raised to Maximum

as ISIS Claims Manchester Attack


MAY 23, 2017

The New York Times





MANCHESTER, England — Britain’s prime minister put the nation on its highest level of alert on Tuesday and deployed the military to work with the police over fears that another terrorist attack was imminent.

The announcement came as the police continued to investigate whether the Monday night bombing at a pop music concert in Manchester that killed 22 people, including children, was part of a broader conspiracy.

“It is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in Manchester after a meeting of her top security officials.

Earlier in the day, the police raided the home of Salman Abedi, the man they identified as the bomber; he died in the blast. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police said that the investigation was focusing on determining “whether Mr. Abedi was acting alone or as part of a network.”

A senior United States official said on Tuesday night that Mr. Abedi had traveled multiple times to Libya, where his parents immigrated from, but did not know the timing of his last trip. The official was not authorized to discuss the information publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

By raising the national threat level from severe to critical, Ms. May suggested “not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that a further attack may be imminent.”

The government’s actions on Tuesday night came hours after the authorities began the gruesome task of identifying the dead. An 8-year-old girl who had attended the Ariana Grande concert with her mother and older sister and a college student who chronicled on Instagram her encounters with her pop-music idols like Ms. Grande were among those killed.

As the authorities bolstered the nation’s defenses, investigators set out to learn as much as they could about Mr. Abedi, 22, who lived with his family only a few miles from where he detonated a homemade bomb on a public concourse crowded with Ms. Grande’s adoring teenage fans leaving the arena.

Rescue workers sifting through the carnage outside the arena on Monday night discovered Mr. Abedi’s identification card. That clue led the police to the home he shared with his family on Elsmore Road, in the Fallowfield district. The police blew the house’s door off its frame, to safeguard against booby traps, as shocked neighbors watched.

“We’ve been watching this kind of attack happen in Paris,” said a neighbor, Thomas Coull, 17. “We didn’t expect it to happen on our doorstep, literally.”

Mr. Abedi was born in 1994 in Britain, according to a law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was still underway.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in one post on social media that “one of the soldiers of the caliphate was able to place an explosive device within a gathering of the crusaders in the city of Manchester.” It was one of several Islamic State statements, some contradictory, posted on different social media accounts.

A neighbor of the Abedi family in the Fallowfield district, southwest of the Manchester city center, said the family “didn’t really speak to anyone.” The neighbor, Lina Ahmed, added, “They were nice people if you walked past.” She said the family occasionally displayed a Libyan flag outside the home.

Another neighbor, Farzana Kosur, said that the mother, who taught the Quran, had been abroad for about two months. A trustee of the Manchester Islamic Center said Mr. Abedi’s father and his brother Ismael attended the mosque, but the trustee, Fawzi Haffar, did not know if Mr. Abedi worshiped there.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the deadly explosion at an arena in Manchester, England, where the American pop singer Ariana Grande had been performing on Monday night. By ROBIN LINDSAY, MALACHY BROWNE, MARK SCHEFFLER and ELSA BUTLER on Publish Date May 22, 2017. Photo by Rex Features, via Associated Press. Watch in Times Video »

A senior member of the Muslim community in Manchester and a law enforcement official who requested anonymity said Mr. Abedi had been barred from the mosque in 2015 for expressing his support for the Islamic State, and he came to the attention of intelligence agencies at the time as “a person of interest.”

In raising the threat level, Mrs. May cited information gathered Tuesday in the investigation into the Manchester bombing and said the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center, the body responsible for setting the level, would continue to review the situation.

“The change in the threat level means that there will be additional resources and support made available to the police as they work to keep us all safe,” Mrs. May said.

“I do not want the public to feel unduly alarmed,” she said. “We have faced a serious terrorist threat in our country for many years, and the operational response I have just outlined is a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

It was only the third time that Britain had raised the threat level to critical.

The first was on Aug. 10, 2006, after the government foiled a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners with liquid bombs. The second was on June 30, 2007, after two men slammed an S.U.V. into entrance doors at Glasgow Airport and turned the vehicle into a potentially lethal fireball.

After the prime minister’s announcement, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the head of National Counter Terrorism Policing, said in a statement that “we are flexing our resources to increase police presence at key sites, such as transport and other crowded places, and we are reviewing key events over the coming weeks.”

“I have asked for support from the military to be deployed alongside the police,” Commissioner Rowley added. “This will free up armed officers from certain guarding duties to release our officers to support the wider response.”

As part of their investigation into the Manchester bombing, the police arrested a 23-year-old man outside a supermarket near Mr. Abedi’s home, but it was not immediately clear if that man was connected in some way to the attack.

The terrorist attack was the worst in the history of Manchester, a city of a half-million people, and the worst in Britain since July 7, 2005, when 52 people died, along with four assailants, in coordinated attacks on London’s transit system.

Security experts suggested that the use of an improvised explosive device in Manchester displayed a level of sophistication that implied collaborators — and the possibility that other bombs had been made at the same time.

Chris Phillips, a former leader of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office in Britain, told the BBC: “It has involved a lot of planning — it’s a bit of a step up. This is a much more professional-style attack.”

The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the March 22 attack near Parliament in which a British man fatally struck four pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before killing a police officer. British authorities say they have also broken up terrorist cells operating in the country.

But investigators fear the Manchester attack indicates a higher level of sophistication, requiring more planning and the possibility of more attacks, prompting the national threat level to be raised.

The bombing came in the final stretch of campaigning before a general election on June 8 in Britain, and the country’s political parties agreed on Tuesday to suspend campaigning. Opposition politicians — Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party, Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats and Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party — joined Mrs. May in expressing their grief and condolences.

It was unclear what effect the attack might have on the election. Some political experts suggested it would help Mrs. May, who, in her previous role as home secretary, was in charge of Britain’s domestic security and is generally perceived as a tough leader. But difficult questions are already being asked about what security gaps might have abetted the assault, and what could have been done to prevent it.

Katrin Bennhold and Ceylan Yeginsu reported from Manchester, and Steven Erlanger from London. Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle from Manchester, Dan Bilefsky, Sewell Chan and Michael Wolgelenter from London, Rukmini Callimachi from New York, and Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger from Washington.

A version of this article appears in print on May 24, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Britain on Edge As Terror Alert Hits Top Level.

Terror Alert in Britain Is Raised to Maximum
as ISIS Claims Manchester Attack,
MAY 23, 2017,






Bomb Attack

on Pakistan Lawmaker’s Convoy

Kills Dozens


MAY 12, 2017

The New York Times



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least 25 people were killed and 30 others were wounded when the convoy of a senior Pakistani politician was hit by a bomb in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, officials said.

The politician, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, the deputy chairman of the Senate, survived with minor injuries. But his driver and an aide were killed in the explosion, in Mastung, a remote district in Baluchistan Province. Mr. Haideri told Reuters soon after the explosion that he believed he was the target of the attack.

Police officials said it was not immediately clear whether the blast was the work of a suicide bomber or the result of a timed device planted by the road.

Through its Syria-based Amaq news agency, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. But Pakistani officials have generally been skeptical, saying that local militant cells who swear allegiance to the Islamic State but have little or no operational link to the main group have been behind most of the attacks.

Amir Rana, a security analyst who is the director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, also took a skeptical view of the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility.

“It could be that they want to increase their impact in the region and make such claims,” Mr. Rana said in an interview. He said that a breakaway faction of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned extremist Sunni group, was inspired by the Islamic State and had been active in the area, and speculated that those militants might have been involved.

Mr. Haideri, who is from Baluchistan, belongs to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, a Sunni Islamist political party that is part of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s coalition government. Since 2015, he has also served as the deputy chairman of the upper house of Parliament. This is the first attack believed to have targeted him, but the party’s leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has survived at least three assassination attempts, most recently in 2014 in Quetta, the provincial capital.

Mr. Haideri’s convoy was hit after Friday Prayer, and television news networks broadcast images of his white sport utility vehicle charred and mangled from the force of the explosion. Speaking to local news outlets after the attack, Mr. Haideri said he had suffered minor injuries.

“I am alive. God has saved my life,” he was quoted by the private television news network Samaa as saying. “It was all very sudden. Broken pieces of the windscreen hit me. I am injured but safe.”

Most of the wounded were taken to the district hospital, while those in critical condition were transported to Quetta.

Baluchistan has been the site of a simmering insurgency for decades, with Baluch separatists demanding greater autonomy and a larger share of mineral and natural gas riches there. But the province also has a large Taliban presence, especially in areas inhabited by the Pashtun population near the border with Afghanistan.


A version of this article appears in print on May 13, 2017, on Page A7 of the New York edition with the headline: Pakistanis Killed as Bomb Strikes Politician’s Convoy.

Bomb Attack on Pakistan Lawmaker’s Convoy Kills Dozens,
May 12, 2017,






Deadly Attack

Near U.K. Parliament;

Car Plows Victims

on Westminster Bridge


MARCH 22, 2017

The New York Times




LONDON — A knife-wielding assailant driving a sport utility vehicle mowed down panicked pedestrians and stabbed a police officer outside Parliament on Wednesday in a deadly assault, prompting the hasty evacuation of the prime minister and punctuating the threat of terrorism in Europe.

At least four people, including the assailant, were killed and at least 40 others injured in the confusing swirl of violence, which the police said they assumed had been “inspired by international terrorism.” It appeared to be the most serious such assault in London since the deadly subway bombings more than a decade ago.

Throughout a turbulent afternoon, ambulances, emergency vehicles and heavily armed security officers thronged the area outside Parliament, as one of the busiest sections of London was cordoned off and evacuated.

Prime Minister Theresa May was rushed into a vehicle and spirited back to her office. She held a meeting of the government’s emergency committee and issued a statement on Wednesday night from her 10 Downing Street residence denouncing “the sick and depraved terrorist attack on the streets of our Capital this afternoon.”

Mrs. May also said that “the full details of exactly what happened are still emerging,” but she confirmed that the attack had been carried out by a lone male assailant. As of late Wednesday, his identity had not been released, but Scotland Yard officials said they believed they knew who he was.

The attack unfolded around 2:40 p.m., Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said at a news conference.

Driving a sport utility vehicle, the assailant slammed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Parliament, killing two people and injuring many others, before crashing into a railing.

After the crash, the driver left the vehicle and approached Parliament, where he stabbed an unarmed police officer to death and was fatally shot by the police.

The dead officer was identified as Keith Palmer, 48, a member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command with 15 years of experience.

“This is the day we have planned for but we hoped would never happen,” Mr. Rowley said. “Sadly, it’s now a reality.”

The attack came on the anniversary of suicide bombings in Brussels that killed 32 people, along with three bombers.

It confirmed fears among counterterrorism officials that London, which had largely escaped recent terrorist attacks in Europe, would join cities like Paris, Brussels and Berlin as targets of mass violence.

“Terrorism affects us all, and France knows the pain the British people are enduring today,” President François Hollande of France said at a news conference in Villepinte, near Paris.

Mrs. May, who spoke with Mr. Hollande and President Trump, said in her statement that Parliament would meet as normal on Thursday. She vowed to never permit “the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.”

Cmdr. B. J. Harrington of the Metropolitan Police said at a brief news conference earlier Wednesday that a “full counterterrorism investigation is underway.” He asked members of the public to report any suspicious activity and to share any images or video of the violence.

Commander Harrington said that the acting police commissioner, Craig Mackey, had been at the scene of the attack and was not injured, but was “being treated as a significant witness.”

At least three police officers were among those injured on the bridge. Also among the injured were three 10th-grade boys from a group of visiting students from the Brittany region of France, and a woman who fell or plunged into the River Thames.

Mr. Hollande’s government said it had chartered a plane to London with families of the French victims.

Tobias Ellwood, a minister in the Foreign Office, tried to save the life of the fatally stabbed police officer by giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The number of injured apparently included five South Korean tourists who were overwhelmed by a crowd fleeing the scene, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday morning. Three men suffered fractures, and a woman had surgery for a head injury, the ministry said.

For more than two hours, astonished lawmakers inside the House of Commons, some of whom had ducked for cover, were told to stay in place as officers searched the premises office by office.

“At the moment, the very clear advice from the police and the director of security in the house is that we should remain under suspension, and that the chamber should remain in lockdown until we’ve received advice that it is safe to go back to normal procedures,” David Lidington, the leader of the House of Commons, or lower house of Parliament, told lawmakers in remarks broadcast live on the BBC.

Olly Grender, a member of the House of Lords, said that lawmakers were staying put. “We were in a meeting, I heard shouting through the window,” she said, adding that a colleague came in to tell them that a serious episode had taken place.

Jayne Wilkinson, 59, from Birmingham, was near the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square with her partner, David Turner, 56, when they saw people suddenly running from Parliament.

The couple said they had seen a middle-aged man holding a knife. He ignored warnings from the police, running though the gates into the Parliament compound, she said. “They were shouting to warn him,” Ms. Wilkinson said. Soon after, she and her partner heard three gunshots and saw the man on the ground.

Three construction workers inside the grounds of Westminster Palace said they had heard shots fired in rapid succession before they were escorted off the premises. “It was bang-bang-bang,” one said.

Reuben Saunders, an American student at Cambridge University who was visiting Parliament, said he had been leaving the building when he saw a police officer accosted by an assailant armed with two knives or similar weapons.

“He was at the gate, I heard screaming,” Mr. Saunders said. “I saw the man on the ground being repeatedly stabbed, or pummeled.”

Mr. Saunders said two or three other police officers arrived, and “there were two or three gunshots.”

Corinne Desray, a teacher who was outside Parliament with 39 teenage students on a three-day school trip from northern France, said they had heard three shots. “My colleague saw bodies lying on the floor and someone said a policeman has been knived,” she said. “I told the kids to leave quickly, we’re heading back to the bus.”

Kirsten Hurrell, 70, who owns a newsstand opposite Big Ben, said she had seen a car swerve across a bicycle lane and into a fence around Parliament. She saw a body lying on the ground and called emergency services. “At first I thought it was an accident, but then I was told the car had already mowed down quite a number of people on Westminster Bridge,” she said, adding: “Now that it is a terrorist incident, it is a bit more daunting.”

Robert Vaudry, 52, a fund manager from Stratford-upon-Avon, said he had emerged from the Westminster subway station around 2:40 p.m. for a meeting with a lawmaker when he realized that something was amiss.

“I came out of the Tube and there were two armed policemen,” he said in an interview. “One grabbed my arm, pushed me to the left and said, ‘Get out of here,’” he said. “They were shouting at everyone to get away.” As he spoke, police officers were cordoning off the area. One officer shouted, “We need everyone to move back past Downing Street.”

Radoslaw Sikorski, a former foreign minister of Poland who was in the area, was in a taxi on Westminster Bridge when the pedestrians were hit by the other vehicle. “I didn’t see the impact, I heard it — it sounded like a car hitting a sheet of metal,” he said. “I saw these people lying on the tarmac, on the pavement. I saw five people down, one unconscious and one bleeding heavily from his head. He was not moving. The taxi driver rang the emergency services, and people rushed to help.”

Andrew Bone, the executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council, an industry standards group, was on a bus heading toward Victoria Station when it was stopped at the edge of Parliament Square. Seeing the commotion, he initially thought an action movie was being shot, but quickly discerned the gravity of the situation as the bus was evacuated and he saw the vehicle that had crashed into a railing.

“We had a front-row seat as the first responders arrived,” Mr. Bone said. “I am of the generation who remembers I.R.A. bombs in London during the Troubles,” he said, referring to the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. “We are not indifferent, but police have reacted with calm. I saw no panic.”

Britain has not suffered a large-scale terrorist attack since July 7, 2005, when bomb attacks on subway trains and on a bus killed more than 50 people. Political violence is relatively rare in Britain, where gun ownership is stringently restricted.

Jo Cox, a Labour member of Parliament, was assassinated in her constituency in northern England on June 16, a week before the contentious referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.

In 1979, a lawmaker was assassinated near the Parliament building. Airey Neave, a Conservative Party member, was killed when his car was blown up.

Jeremy Shapiro, a former State Department official now at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the London attack was consistent with the recent pattern of attacks in which a vehicle was used to kill people, citing assaults in France, Germany and Israel.

“We’ve seen a gradual movement away from terrorist attacks on the West to attacks on softer and softer targets with more improvised weapons,” he said. “In a way, it’s a sign of desperation and a demonstration of the effectiveness of counterterrorism in the West. It’s spectacularly easy to kill a bunch of people with a car or a truck if you don’t care who they are.”



Correction: March 29, 2017

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Keith Palmer, the police officer who was stabbed to death. He was unarmed. Also because of an editing error, the article referred incorrectly to the sport utility vehicle driven by the assailant. It was a compact model (a Hyundai Tucson), not a large one.

Follow Katrin Bennhold @kbennhold and Stephen Castle @_StephenCastle on Twitter.

Reporting was contributed by Claire Barthelemy, Dan Bilefsky, Anne-Sophie Bolon, Adrienne Carter, Sewell Chan, Lillie Dremeaux, Stephen Farrell, Yonette Joseph, Iliana Magra, Hannah Olivennes, Prashant S. Rao, Amie Tsang and Michael Wolgelenter from London; Benoît Morenne from Paris; Steven Erlanger from Budapest; Rick Gladstone and Russell Goldman from New York; Gardiner Harris from Washington; and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South Korea.

A version of this article appears in print on March 23, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Deadly Rampage in Heart of London.

Deadly Attack Near U.K. Parliament;
Car Plows Victims on Westminster Bridge,
March 22, 2017,






2 Taliban Bombings

Kill 23 People in Kabul


MARCH 1, 2017

The New York Times




KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban set off two explosions in quick succession in the capital on Wednesday, killing 23 people and wounding 106, according to Afghan officials.

Three of the dead were security force members, but most of the rest were believed to be civilians.

Officials said a bomb first went off at a neighborhood police headquarters in the southwestern part of the city. A short time later, a second explosion was heard in the eastern side of the city, near offices of the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency.

Faraidoon Obaidi, head of the Kabul police criminal investigations division, said two attackers had entered the police headquarters, while another pair assaulted a nearby recruitment center for the Afghan National Army. The later strike also used two attackers.

After the explosions, the attackers apparently fought with the authorities. An exchange of small-arms fire was heard in both areas for five hours. The attackers were presumably killed.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, emailed and posted social media messages claiming responsibility for the bombings soon after they took place.

Officials originally said 12 people died, but Qamaruddin Sediqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry, revised the death count to 23 and the number of injured to 106, up from 50, after receiving more complete information from hospitals.

The attack on the security office involved a suicide bomber, but it was unclear what sort of detonation took place at police headquarters. It was the first insurgent bombing in Kabul since Feb. 7, when a suicide bomber killed more than a dozen people outside the Supreme Court offices.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Wednesday, a district in the northern province of Baghlan fell to the Taliban on Wednesday, according to Faizullah Amiri, the governor of Tala Wa Barfak district. It was believed to be the first time in recent years that a district in Baghlan, normally a government stronghold, had fallen to the insurgents.

“We were under siege for four days,” Mr. Amiri said. “Our supply routes from Bamian were blocked and the route to Baghlan was also blocked and eventually the district collapsed to the Taliban.”

He said three security force members and seven Taliban militants had died in the fighting.


Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul,
and Najim Rahim from Kunduz, Afghanistan.

2 Taliban Bombings Kill 23 People in Kabul,
MARCH 1, 2017,






Pakistan Shrine Bombing

Kills Scores in Worst Attack

in Months


FEB. 16, 2017

The New York Times



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber turned a spiritual dance celebration at a revered religious shrine into a slaughterhouse on Thursday, killing at least 70 people and wounding more than 250 in the worst act of terrorism to hit Pakistan in months.

At least 50 of the wounded were critically hurt in the explosion at the Sufi shrine in a remote part of southern Pakistan, officials said. Many of the victims were women.

The Islamic State, the extreme Sunni militant organization based in Syria and Iraq, announced that its branch in the region had carried out the attack.

The Islamic State, which regards members of other Muslim groups as nonbelievers deserving death, also claimed responsibility for an attack on a Sufi shrine in southwestern Pakistan in November. Sufism, popular in Pakistan, is regarded as a relatively tolerant branch of Islam.

The shrine assault on Thursday was by far the worst in a wave of militant attacks that have shaken Pakistan this week, most claimed by the Taliban. The attacks were the catalyst for a decision on Thursday by the armed forces to close the border with Afghanistan, where Pakistani officials claim that many such attacks are coordinated and plotted.

A spokesman for the armed forces, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, announced on Twitter that the border closing was effective immediately.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border closed with immediate effects till further orders due to security reasons.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) Feb. 16, 2017

While Pakistani officials have voiced skepticism about the presence of the Islamic State in the country, they have acknowledged that some local militant groups have expressed support for it.

The attacks have underscored the challenges faced by the civil and military leadership to counter extremist violence.

On Wednesday, seven people were killed in northwestern Pakistan in two suicide bombings, one targeting judges in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. On Monday, at least 13 people were killed in Lahore, in the east, when militants targeted a protest.

The bombing Thursday evening targeted the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a popular Sufi saint, in Sehwan, a city in Jamshoro district of the southern Sindh Province. A large number of people had been performing a spiritual, devotional dance when the bomber struck in the courtyard, officials said, turning a place of spiritual reverie into a spectacle of blood and body parts.

The remoteness of the region added to the difficulties faced by the survivors and emergency responders. The nearest big city was about 90 miles away.

Khadim Hussain Rind, a senior provincial police officer, said that more than two dozen police officials had been deputized for security at the event and that closed-circuit cameras had been installed for surveillance of the shrine. “However, it is very difficult to stop a suicide bomber in a big crowd,” Mr. Rind told the local news media.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the bombing as an assault on a “progressive inclusive future of Pakistan.”

Sufi shrines and mosques have been targeted in the past by Taliban militants, who view Sufi Islam as contrary to their beliefs.

“The past few days have been hard, and my heart is with the victims,” the prime minister said in the statement. “But we can’t let these events divide us, or scare us. We must stand united in this struggle for the Pakistani identity and universal humanity.”

The sudden spike in terrorist violence has shocked and surprised the country.

“Pakistan is under attack. The terrorists are creating a climate of fear, intimidation and uncertainty. No institution and no aspect of society is seemingly secure,” Syeda Sughra Imam, a former senator, said in an interview. “Sehwan is synonymous with Pakistan’s Sufi culture and tradition, which has been dealt a devastating blow today.”

The Pakistani military had proudly claimed last year, under the leadership of the then army chief, that the military operations in the tribal regions, especially the one in North Waziristan, and intelligence operations in different cities had largely defeated the militant groups that had carried out many attacks.

But the violence has cast doubt on the military’s claims.

Imran Khan, the prominent opposition politician, blamed the federal government for what he called its failure to follow through after the military’s offensives against militants. “We need a coherent national security policy,” Mr. Khan said in an interview.

“I do think complacency has set in,” Mr. Khan said.

A version of this article appears in print on February 17, 2017, on Page A5 of the New York edition with the headline:
At Least 70 Are Killed in Pakistan Shrine Blast.

Pakistan Shrine Bombing Kills Scores in Worst Attack in Months,
FEB. 16, 2017,





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