The South Asia Channel

3 Americans Killed in Attack on Afghan Hospital; Pakistan Targets Taliban Hideouts; Sixth Day of Voting in India

Bonus read: "Afghan Security Forces Take Charge," Michael McBride (SouthAsia)


3 Americans killed in attack at hospital

An Afghan police officer shot and killed three American doctors at the Cure International Hospital in Kabul on Thursday (Pajhwok, Reuters, WSJ). The officer, who goes only by the name of Ayudin and had just recently been assigned to guard the 100-bed hospital, opened fire at the hospital in the morning as doctors and nurses were arriving for work. Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, said the motive was unknown and the officer was arrested after unsuccessfully trying to commit suicide after the shooting (NYT, Post). The incident is the most recent in a string of attacks targeted at foreigners: On April 4, an officer shot and killed Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounded correspondent Kathy Gannon (NYT). 

Taliban willing to release U.S. soldier

The captors of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held captive by the Taliban since June 30, 2009, have signaled a willingness to release him, but are unclear which U.S. government officials have the authority to make a deal, according to officials working for his release (AP). A defense official said that "elements in all echelons - from the top of the Taliban down to the folks holding Bergdahl - are reaching out to make a deal" but that the effort was stalled by distrust on both sides. The official said the United States has not formally responded to the outreach efforts by those holding Bergdahl. Bergdahl, who is thought to be held by members of the Haqqani network, which operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, was last seen in a "proof of life" video released in December.


Fighter jets target Taliban hideouts

Pakistan's military launched air strikes against suspected militant hideouts near the Afghan border on Thursday, killing at least 12 suspected militants in the first air operation against the Taliban in two months (Dawn, ET, AJE, RFE/RL). "Terrorist hideouts were engaged by fighter jets in Khyber agency early [in the] morning today," the army's press wing said in a text message (Reuters). The Pakistani Army said the strikes were in response to recent attacks against police and civilians in Islamabad and Peshawar, including the bombing of a fruit market in Islamabad on April 9. A senior military official in Peshawar told Reuters that the air raids were just the first phase of an offensive against militants in the Khyber area.

Suicide blast kills inspector

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the Old Sabzi Mandi area of Karachi on Thursday, killing police inspector Shafiq Tanoli and three others and wounding 15 other people (Dawn, Post). According to senior police officer Tanvir Ahmad Tunio, the bomber targeted Tanoli, who was known for his anti-militant campaigns and has been targeted at least seven times before (ET). One of Tanoli's brothers, Rasheed, told the media that his uncle and cousin were killed as well.

-- Emily Schneider


India carries out sixth day of voting

India marked another big voting day on Apr 24, as 117 constituencies went to the polls in 12 states and union territories (Hindustan Times, NDTV). More than 180 million voters were eligible to cast ballots for 2,076 candidates in states including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Assam. This is the sixth of a nine-phase election; of the 117 seats up for contention, the Congress party currently has 37 while the Bharatiya Janata Party holds 24.

The vote is expected to decide the fate of some of India's smaller but powerful regional parties, such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Samajwadi Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the National Congress Party (NC), and Shiv Sena, who could play an important role in the event of a hung parliament. 

In Tamil Nadu, which the Asian Age calls the most important state in the phase, the erratic electricity supply is a main election issue, beating out even corruption and development concerns (Mint). The state experiences daily electricity cuts of 8-10 hours in all areas, except in the capital of Chennai, where cuts often last for two hours. Rural areas can go without electricity for up to 14 hours. The power crisis in Tamil Nadu began in 2005, due to improper government planning, poor financial and operational managements, and other issues, said Amol Kotwal, an associate director at consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. The political parties blame each other for the shortages: The DMK was in power from 2006-2011, when the AIADMK won the 2011 state assembly elections.

Another profile from Mint of the state of Tamil Nadu details the gifts the AIADMK has offered locals, including goats, cable TVs, blenders, fans, and gold (Mint). State budget documents show Tamil Nadu has spent more than Rs 16,000 crore ($2.6 billion) on similar handouts since 2006 - equivalent to the state's annual spending on education. Subsidies in India have risen five-fold in the past decade, a period in which the Indian economy has only doubled in size, according to the IMF. 


Bangladesh marks one-year anniversary of Rana Plaza collapse

Roughly 2,500 survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh are marking the one-year anniversary of the incident, which focused international attention on the country's 4 million garment workers and exposed unsafe conditions, low pay, and worker abuse in a global industry (WSJ). Since the collapse, which killed 1,138 workers, international retailers have formed two separate pacts to invest in factory safety in Bangladesh, and the country's government has made it easier for workers to unionize.

However, many argue that measures to help the victims and improve standards in the industry have not gone far enough. The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund has raised $15 million to help survivors, short of its $40 million target. Initial payments of 50,000 takas ($640) per survivor were to have been paid before April 24. However, Rozina Begum, a survivor of the accident profiled by Wall Street Journal, said she had not yet received the money. Begum was trapped under a beam in the building collapse for 48 hours, and only escaped by cutting her arm off with a saw.

In London, activists marked the anniversary by forming a human chain on London's busiest shopping street (Guardian). Trade activists said the international response to the incident has been underwhelming, with fewer than half of the brands linked to clothes-making at the building donating to the compensation fund. 

-- Ana Swanson

-- Edited by Peter Bergen