Saturday, June 24, 2017

Latest despatches from the Muslim civil war

Ever wonder what happened to those cool German army helmets from WWII? The ones that inspired the design of present-day American military and police headgear? Well, the originals -- the ones that didn't get holes in them -- are still in use by the Pakistani army, as witness this picture of Pakistani troops watching each others' backs after a shootout with Islamic militants on the outskirts of Peshawar today. Security forces raided a militant hideout in the city before dawn, triggering a shootout in which three Pakistani Taliban were killed.

The raid on the Taliban hideout (of which the government was obviously aware) seems to have been in retaliation for a wave of suicide bombings and shootings which swept the border region next door to Afghanistan yesterday -- the last Friday of Ramadan. Twin blasts in the northwestern town of Parachinar had sent another 55 Muslims to Paradise, with many others in critical condition. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim extremist group, claimed responsibility for the bombings at a crowded market in the Shia-dominated town, linking them to the main theatre of the Muslim civil war in Syria.

Meanwhile, near the office of the provincial police chief in the southwestern city of Quetta, another 14 people were killed Friday in a suicide car bombing. That attack was claimed by ISIS and a breakaway Taliban faction. But wait (as Vince Offer used to say), there's more! In Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, gunmen attacked police officers at a roadside restaurant, killing four of them before fleeing, according to Inspector Mohammed. That brings the total death toll for one to... let's see... 55 + 14 + 4... carry the 1... 73! Quite something for a day of fasting and prayer.

The scene shifts now to Saudi Arabia, where (the Grauniad reports) Saudi security forces have foiled an Islamic terror plot targeting the Grand Mosque in Mecca and pilgrims heading there to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

An Interior Ministry spokesthingy told the meeja that security forces exchanged gunfire with one of the suspects, who blew himself up inside a home. Five security force members and six "other people" were injured, according to the state-owned Al-Arabiya website. Five people were arrested, including a woman suspected of attempting to drive a car.

Inspector Mohammed said the ministry "confirms that this terrorist network, whose terrorist plan was thwarted, violated, in what they would have perpetrated, all sanctities by targeting the security of the Grand Mosque, the holiest place on Earth. They obeyed their evil and corrupt self-serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilize the security and stability of this blessed country."

The ministry did not name the group involved in the attack. The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an Al-Qaeda insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of ISIS.

Further reading: "The great Muslim civil war — and us", by Charles Krauthammer, in the Washington Post, 23/6/17.

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