The South Asia Channel

Blasts across Afghanistan kill 20

The Rack: Tom Freston, "Football Fever in the Hindu Kush" (Vanity Fair)

New post: Shuja Nawaz, "For Obama, a second chance in South Asia" (FP).

Wave of violence

Three separate bomb attacks in Afghanistan killed at least 18 people on Thursday, including 10 civilians aboard a mini bus on its way to a wedding party, which hit a roadside bomb in the southern province of Helmand (AP, BBC, AFP, CNN, AJE). Five Afghan soldiers were killed in Laghman Province, in the east, when their vehicle hit a landmine, and three police officers were killed in a powerful suicide bomb blast in the southern province of Kandahar.

Most of the witnesses who have testified so far in the pre-trial hearing of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales have painted a picture of a lucid, deliberate murderer who was aware of his actions and their potential consequences, but a defense witness who testified Wednesday described Bales as a "soldier's leader," and said Bales appeared remorseful after the killings (NYT, AP, AP, AP, LAT). Also complicating the case, one witness testified, was the fact that investigators did not gain access to the site of the 16 alleged murders in Kandahar Province until three weeks after the attacks, and the site was further tampered with by security personnel making sure the area was safe.

Four Afghan police officers were found guilty on Wednesday of raping an 18-year-old woman in Kunduz Province, giving many in the victim's community a greater sense of trust in the government's and judiciary's commitment to justice (NYT). Many Afghans reacted to the results of the U.S. presidential election with resignation on Wednesday, knowing that NATO's plan for withdrawing combat troops from their country by 2014 will remain largely unchanged by who is in the White House (Post, Guardian).

Chaos downtown

A suicide bomber slammed his vehicle into the gates of a paramilitary base in downtown Karachi on Thursday, killing at least one and injuring over 20, but was apparently unable to breach the gates of the base and cause further harm (Reuters, AP, Dawn, AFP/ET).

Rebecca Santana for the Associated Press published a must-read on Thursday detailing the increasing violence against Hindus in Pakistan, which has resulted in the destruction of Hindu religious sites, a growing divide between the minority community and their Muslim neighbors, and the exodus of thousands of Pakistani Hindus to India (AP).

And while many in the United States and across the world celebrated the re-election of Barack Obama on Tuesday night, relatives of the victims of the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan's tribal regions reacted with anger and despair (Reuters).

Winners and losers

Because many Pakistanis were angered by President Obama's reelection, the nation's flag makers are expecting their sales to leap as protesters against drone strikes look for U.S. flags to stomp on and burn (AFP). One such businessman predicted "Of course Obama has become stronger now and he will push his policies harder and there will be more drone strikes because he himself is stronger now."

-- Jennifer Rowland

Aref Karimi/AFP/GettyImages

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