Pakistan in crisis after bombings

Josef Litobarski
22 August 2008

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack on an arms factory in Pakistan, in which at least 64 people died. The attack, one of the deadliest in recent years, came nine days after the Taliban declared "open war" in response to the Pakistani army's assault on Taliban and tribal militants, which they claim is in breach of de-facto ceasefires. A third suicide bomber who allegedly failed to detonate his explosive-vest was detained by police attempting to flee the scene.

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Pakistan is heading towards political crisis. The government narrowly avoided collapse on Friday over the issue of whether or not to restore judges removed by Musharraf's purge of the Supreme Court last year. The resolution of this divisive issue has been merely postponed.

Given President Musharraf's departure this week to avoid the looming crisis surrounding his impeachment, the key question for some analysts is who will replace him as the dominant voice of Pakistan's foreign policy. Diplomatic relations with India had thawed under Musharraf, but at a time of increasing Hindu-Muslim violence in Kashmir and repeated violations of the Kashmir ceasefire, relations between the two nuclear-armed states are now suddenly much tenser.

Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for Algeria bombing

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North-African wing of al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings which killed more than 50 people in Algeria earlier this week. The attacks represent the worst violence in Algeria in years and, according to Al-Qaeda, came in response to the killing of 12 Islamists in an ambush by Algerian authorities earlier this month.

Philippines peace-deal falls apart

Just hours after the Philippines government rejected a controversial peace-deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), fighting between government forces and MILF rebels has left dozens dead. The peace-deal would have expanded the territory of an autonomous Muslim region in the mineral-rich south of the country, but fierce opposition from powerful Christian interests and a challenge in the Supreme Court convinced the government to pull out of the agreement. At least 120,000 people have died in the forty year conflict, which has prevented the exploitation of some of the richest mineral and hydrocarbon resources in Southeast Asia.

Fighting escalates in Somalia

Fifty-five people have been killed and 150 wounded in fierce fighting between Islamist militants and local clan-members for control of a strategic port town in the south of Somalia. In the capital, Mogadishu, at least twenty people were killed in a series of clashes between Islamists and Ethiopian troops, including a mortar attack on a crowded marketplace. Ethiopian troops entered the country in late 2006 and have found themselves bogged-down in a bloody insurgency which has claimed 8,000 civilian lives.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Somalia, three ships were hijacked in an unprecedented series of raids by pirates. It is unclear whether the ships - one German, one Iranian and one Japanese - were targeted by the same group. Piracy along Somalia's coastline has become so bad in recent months that the UN issued a mandate in June, authorising foreign navies to patrol Somali waters.

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