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Afghan forces take over security from NATO
by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) June 18, 2013

Pakistan holds suspect in federal prosecutor's shooting death
Islamabad, Pakistan (UPI) Jun 17, 2013 - Police in Pakistan have arrested a suspect in the shooting death of a senior public prosecutor who was investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Police said they were questioning Abdullah Omar in the death of Federal Investigation Agency prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali in Islamabad May 3, Express News reported.

Zulfiqar was gunned down in his car by four men soon after leaving his home to attend a court hearing for a bail application by former President Pervez Musharraf.

The suspect was injured when the prosecutor's bodyguards fired back at the armed attackers who escaped in a car, the Express reported.

The BBC reported Omar is the son of a retired army colonel who was court-martialed 10 years ago for attempting to assassinate Musharraf.

Omar was captured later and hospitalized for a bullet wound to his spine he had received during the shootout with police, officials said. He was formally arrested while in a hospital.

The BBC said Zulfiqar has said in an interview he had received several death threats by telephone because of his investigations into the death of Bhutto and the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in which 166 people were killed.

He was believed close to submitting final evidence against seven members of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group who are on trial for helping plan the Mumbai attack, the BBC said.

Indian security forces killed nine of the 10 gunmen during the daring raid in central Mumbai. About 240 people were reported injured in the attack that lasted 60 hours.

The gunfight with police and the military severely damaged several well-known buildings, including the main train station Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, Hotel Oberoi-Trident, Cama Hospital and the Chabad House, a Jewish prayer center and the Leopold Cafe, a favorite among foreigners.

The surviving gunman, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, 24, was convicted in May 2010 of murder and waging war on India. He was given a death sentence and hung in November last year.

The arrest of Omar comes as Musharraf -- a former military ruler turned civilian politician -- was indicted last week for his alleged part in the detention of more than 60 judges during a nationwide state of emergency when he was president in 2007, officials said.

Musharraf, 69, denies all charges against him, reported Saturday.

Other charges against Musharraf, a former general, include counts stemming from the death of Bhutto in a gunfire and bomb attack while she was campaigning against him in 2007 and charges regarding the death of a tribal leader in 2006.

Musharraf's troubles began in March when he returned to Pakistan from self-imposed four-year exile in London and Dubai to run in last month's national parliamentary election as head of his All Pakistan Muslim League Party.

Arrests and detentions meant he failed to contest the election, which was won by Nawaz Sharif, 63 -- the man Musharraf toppled in a bloodless military coup in October 1999.

Sharif was installed as prime minister this month.

Musharraf is fighting charges in the August 2006 death of Baluchistan tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79. Bugti, a former Baluchistan province minister turned nationalist rebel, was killed when a shell exploded in his mountain cave headquarters.

The Bugti case surrounds the circumstance in which the government raid on his cave took place and how the shell exploded.

Afghan forces took control of security across the country on Tuesday, marking a major milestone as US-led combat troops prepare to withdraw after 12 years of fighting the Taliban.

Speaking at a military academy outside Kabul, President Hamid Karzai said the police and army were ready to take on insurgents, but a bomb in the city underlined persistent instability.

Three civilians were killed in the attack, which targeted a prominent lawmaker as his convoy travelled to parliament just before the handover ceremony began.

"Our security and defence forces will now be in the lead," Karzai told Afghan and NATO officials at the event, the timing and location of which had been kept secret due to fears of a militant attack.

"From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces," he said. "When people see security has been transferred to Afghans, they support the army and police more than before."

Doubts remain over the ability of Afghan forces to thwart the Taliban, and the NATO military coalition will retain an important function in logistics and air support as well as in combat emergencies.

But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that by taking the lead in security on Tuesday, Afghan forces were completing a five-stage transition process that began in March 2011.

"They are doing so with remarkable resolve," he said. "Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces... now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police, a formidable force," he said.

"We will continue to help Afghan troops in operations if needed, but we will no longer plan, execute or lead those operations, and by the end of 2014 our combat mission will be completed."

The handover of the last 95 districts from NATO to Afghan control includes areas in the south and east where the Taliban have concentrated their bloody insurgency since 2001.

As Afghan soldiers and police take over the fight against the militants, who were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks, the 100,000 NATO troops will focus on training and mentoring roles.

But recent attacks have demonstrated the Taliban's ability to strike at Kabul as the country prepares for presidential elections next year and the NATO withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a leader of the ethnic Hazara minority who is likely to play a key role in April's presidential vote, was unhurt in Tuesday's bomb attack but his clothes were burnt.

"Four of my guards are wounded and are in hospital," he told AFP. "I was going to the parliament and it was near the office of the Independent Human Rights Commission.

"I heard a big explosion on the side of the car. Only my cloak is a little burned, other than that I'm fine."

The lawmaker said that he had been threatened.

"The intelligence agency was sending letters that I should be careful. There was a threat against me. I was rarely going to the parliament."

Mohammad Zahir, the police investigations chief in Kabul, told reporters at the scene that three civilians were killed and 24 others, including some guards, were wounded when the improvised explosive device detonated.

On Tuesday last week, a suicide car bomb killed 15 civilians outside the Supreme Court in Kabul. The previous day, gunmen fired grenades at the city airport and an international aid group's compound was targeted in a seven-hour battle late last month.

Despite the attacks penetrating the capital's defences, the effective response of elite Afghan security forces has been widely hailed as a sign of increasing professionalism.

Karzai used his speech to exhort the army to avoid civilian casualties, an issue that has often triggered anger aimed at NATO forces, and he stressed that foreign air strikes should not be called in when fighting the insurgents.

"Under no circumstances can Afghan civilians be hurt and/or the air force be used in our villages and residential areas -- only in medical evacuations," he said.

Doubts over the Afghan forces' capacity have been fuelled by high rates of desertion and fears for the future of foreign aid post-2014.

On Friday, the US commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan warned that gains secured over the last 12 years would be lost if donor nations cut back support after the foreign withdrawal.

"We are not where we need to be yet," US General Joseph Dunford told foreign journalists.

"The continued presence of the international community politically, in development and in security is necessary to sustain the progress that we have made."


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Afghan forces to take over nationwide security: officials
Kabul (AFP) June 15, 2013
Afghan security forces will soon take over responsibility for the whole of the country, officials said Saturday, a major milestone as the NATO-led war effort winds down after 12 years of fighting. The handover of the last 95 districts from NATO to Afghan forces includes many of the most volatile areas of south and east Afghanistan where the Taliban have fought a bloody insurgency against the ... read more

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