The South Asia Channel

Al Qaeda Took In $125 Million From Kidnapping; Monsoon Buries Indian Village; Roadside Bomb Injures 8 Children in Afghanistan


Bonus Read: "Why Pakistan Needs a Few More Good Women," Allison Peters and Huma Chungtai (South Asia)

Al Qaeda takes in 125 million dollars from kidnapping since 2008

Al Qaeda and its affiliates have taken in over $125 million in ransom from kidnappings, many of which were overseen and followed common protocols set by Al Qaeda in Pakistan, according to a New York Times report by Rukmini Callimachi on Tuesday (NYT). The payments almost entirely came from European governments, despite European denials that they pay ransoms. Al Qaeda documents show that Al Qaeda in Pakistan was coordinating ransom negotiations as far away as Africa, Syria, and Yemen. Callimachi reports that hostages held in Yemen, just as recently as last year, said that there was coordination with a distant leadership.

7 militants killed in repelled cross-border attack

Seven militants were killed by Pakistani forces repelling a cross-border attack from Afghanistan into Lower Dir, on Wednesday (ET, RFE/RL). The attack consisted of 70 to 80 militants who fled back into Afghanistan. Following the attack, Pakistan lodged a protest with Afghanistan and summoned a senior Afghan diplomat over the incident (ET, Dawn). Cross-border violence has been a sore spot for Pakistani-Afghan relations.

Six women injured in acid attack

Six women were injured in an acid attack, on Wednesday, in the Pishin district of Balochistan, according to a report by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn (DAWN). The deputy commissioner for Pishin, Bashir Bazai, told Dawn that there were four attackers who all escaped. According to Bazai, the attack was the result of an old enmity and not terrorism. The attack comes one week after two acid attacks in Balochistan injured six women in 24 hours.

--David Sterman


Monsoon landslide buries village

Heavy monsoon rains triggered a landslide on Wednesday in a village near Pune district, located in the western state of Maharashtra, where ten people were reported dead and over 170 people are feared buried (NDTV, Hindustan Times, Livemint). Emergency forces rushed to the remote village where debris from a hill collapsed onto approximately 40 homes. According to S.S. Guleria, deputy inspector general of operations at the National Disaster Response Force, despite the fact that seven teams of 42 rescue workers each had been sent to the village, torrential rains, muddy roads, and poor communications were hampering rescue efforts.

Last year, nearly 6,000 people died when flash floods and landslides struck northern India. The victims were swept away when torrential monsoon rains caused floods destroying entire villages and towns.

India's Flipkart raises record funding of $1 billion

Flipkart, India's largest e-commerce company, announced on Tuesday that it raised $1 billion in fresh funding, the biggest ever by an Indian internet firm in a single round (BBC, Economic Times, NDTV). Founded in 2007 by two former Amazon employees, Flipkart has 10 million registered users and handles over 100,000 shipments a day. Popular for selling electronics and books online, Flipkart had raised $760 million in the past seven years. Earlier this year, Flipkart exceeded $1 billion in annual sales and acquired Myntra, an online fashion retailer, for approximately $300 million. The company is now expected to be valued at $5 billion.

A day after Flipkart's announcement, Amazon said on Wednesday that it will invest $2 billion in India (Economic Times, IBNLive). Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said in a press statement: "We see huge potential in the Indian economy and for the growth of e-commerce in India. With this additional investment of $2 billion, our team can continue to think big, innovate, and raise the bar for customers in India."

India's e-commerce market was worth $13 billion in 2013. Flipkart faces competition in the online retail market from global e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, fashion portal Jabong, and the online marketplace Snapdeal. Also, Walmart, the world's largest retailer, recently began online sales in the cash-and-carry segment in select cities in India.

Decade-old justice for school children burned alive

A court in Tamil Nadu, located in the southern state of India, convicted on Wednesday 10 people including the school's founder and local government officials for the 2004 Kumbakonam middle school fire in which 94 children were burnt alive and 18 injured (BBC, Hindustan Times, NDTV). The school tragedy was one of the worst involving children in India where all the students who died were less than nine years of age. The fire had started in the kitchen where food was being prepared for the children under the free mid-day meal scheme, a government program, which provides free meals to students attending schools.

When the fire spread to the school's thatched roof, there were about 200 students in the classroom. The school building, tightly sandwiched between homes, had only one exit, no fire extinguishers, and the gates were locked when the accident happened. Based on an official inquiry, the school's management had colluded with local officials. The report concluded that the school was functioning with an approved building plan, even though the town planning officer had never visited the school. The thatched roof where the children were served meals was illegal.

--Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Roadside bomb injures eight children

A roadside bomb in central Uruzgan province injured thirteen people including eight children, according to Afghan police officials (Pajhwok). A doctor at the provincial hospital confirmed to Pajhwok Afghan News that at least eleven people, including eight children between the ages of 12 and 13, had been brought to the hospital. The roadside bomb exploded near an ice cream truck during a fair in the provincial capital Tirin Kot. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Taliban shadow governor killed

An operation in Sangin district of Helmand province that was launched on Monday killed Mullah Nasir, the Taliban district shadow governor, according to an announcement on Wednesday by Afghan officials (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Mohammad Omar Zawak, the spokesman for Helmand's governor, said that Nasir was among 20 militants killed in the ongoing operation, while one policeman was killed. The Taliban have not commented on Nasir's reported death.

Historical monuments at risk

Officials of Zabul province's Information and Culture Department, as well as local residents, are warning that historical sites in the province are at extreme risk, according to reports Wednesday in TOLO News and Pajhwok Afghan News (Pajhwok, TOLO News). One resident named Amanullah stated: "[T]he responsible organs have not accomplished any work in sustaining the cultural remains." Abdul Muqim Afghan, the head of the department, added that to "certify the concerns of the residents of this province, we are trying to jointly work with donor institutions and the MoIC [Ministry of Information and Culture] to maintain the ancient monuments." Afghan said the department was able to identify 20 archaeological sites, five of which were in danger of complete collapse but that the department was not being provided with the capabilities to protect the sites.

--David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen