South Asia

Nepal blasts: bid to reboot Maoist insurgency

Four people were killed and three others injured in three explosions in Kathmandu, a grim reminder of the Maoist insurgency the shook Nepal for a decade before a 2006 peace agreement. A dissident faction that has remained in arms since the peace agreement claimed credit for the blasts. The Netra Bikram Chand-led “Communist Party of Nepal” had declared a nationwide general strike for the following day. And in fact many businesses and transportation services were shut down, seemingly more due to fear of attack than support for the strike. The Netra Bikram Chand faction broke from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) when it laid down arms and joined the government. (Photo: Libcom)

South Asia

Sri Lanka dissidents reject Buddhist fascism

As Sri Lanka marks the 10-year anniversary of the end of its long internal war, a new wave of communal violence has erupted following the Easter Sunday  terror attacks. In days of anti-Muslim riots, mobs have ransacked mosques and attacked shops with petrol bombs. The Buddhist militant group Bodu Bala Sena, which has been repeatedly linked to such pogroms since its founding in 2012, is named as having instigated much of the violence. But just as many Sri Lankan Muslims have held peace vigils to repudiate the Easter attacks and declare their solidarity with Christians, some Sinhalese Buddhists have repudiated the pogroms and declared their solidarity with Muslims. (Photo via SriLankaTweet)

South Asia

Pakistan: Taliban target Sufi shrine —again

At least 10 people were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide blast that targeted security forces guarding a famous Sufi shrine in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The attack, which came during the holy month of Ramadan, was apparently aimed at a police vehicle, and five officers are among the dead. The Data Darbar shrine, where Sufi saint Ali Hajveri is buried, was the target of a 2010 suicide attack that killed more than 40 worshipers, and has since been under heavy security. The new attack was claimed by the Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. (Photo: Wikipedia)

South Asia

Muslim leaders had warned of Sri Lanka terror

ISIS claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka that left over 300 dead, and released a video purporting to show the militants behind the attacks pledging allegiance to the terror network’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But Sri Lankan authorities had named a little-known militant group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath as behind the attacks. Leaders of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said they had warned military intelligence officials about National Thowheeth Jama’ath three years ago, saying the group was planning attacks on non-Muslims. (Photo: Sahad Shady via Twitter)

South Asia

Separatists claim Baluchistan massacre

Gunmen killed at least 14 passengers after forcing them off several passenger vehicles on the coastal highway through Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province. Some 20 militants apparently stopped vehicles, checked passangers’ identification papers, and shot selected ones to death on the roadside. A statement later issued by a previously unknown militant group said those targeted were determined to be members of the military or security forces. The attack was claimed by the Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar, or Baloch People’s Liberation Coalition, which is believed to have emerged from factional rivalry within the Baloch separatist insurgency. Pakistan has filed a diplomatic complaint with Iran, accusing it of giving the Baloch militants harbor on its territory across the border. (Map via Atheer)

South Asia

Kashmiris under attack across India

As India and Pakistan exchange military strikes in the wake of last week's massive suicide blast in Kashmir, many cities across India report cases of targeted violence against Kashmiri students and businesses by right-wing groups. Members of Yuva Sena, youth wing of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena, attacked Kashmiri students in Maharashtra. Colleges in Dehradun and Bhopal expelled Kashmiri students for posting objectionable content on social media about the suicide attack. A video surfaced on social media showing a Kashmiri man being beaten in Kolkata, West Bengal, by a mob which forced him to chant patriotic slogans like "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai" ("Mother, I praise thee" and "Victory to Mother India," two phrases appropriated by the Hindu-nationalist right). (Photo via KashmirWatch)

South Asia

Himalayan glaciers could be mostly gone by 2100

Rising temperatures in the Himalayas will melt at least one-third of the region's glaciers by the end of the century even if the world's most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a new report. If those goals are not reached, the Himalayas could lose two-thirds of their glaciers by 2100, according to the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, released by the Kathmandu-bsed International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. Under that scenario, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by century's end, bringing radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region, which spans over 2,000 miles of Asia, provide water to nearly a quarter of the world's population. (Photo via Nepali Times)

South Asia

Pakistan overturns blasphemy death sentence

The Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned the 2010 blasphemy conviction and death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic woman, citing failure to proffer enough evidence that Bibi indeed committed the offense. Bibi's conviction stemmed from an altercation with her Muslim co-workers at a farm in Punjab province, who said they would not drink water fetched by Bibi after she sipped from it because she was impure. Heated words were exchanged, and the account of the incident was later apparently exaggerated to incriminate Bibi. The trial court convicted her of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad. Bibi initially made what the high court called an "extra-judicial confession" to the crime at the scene, but claimed at trial that the confession was made under coercion and threat of death. The Asia Bibi case has polarized Pakistan over the past years, leading to waves of protest and even deadly violence. The Supreme Court decision has triggered angry demonstrations across the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed for calm. Bibi, a mother of four, has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement. (Photo: Pakistan Express-Tribune)

South Asia

China expands Indian Ocean military footprint

In addition to stationing troops on the disputed islands it claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is rapidly expanding its network of commercial ports across the Indian Ocean. This comes as China is sending warships into the Ocean with growing frequency, leading to fears that the commercial ports could presage military bases, The latest addition is the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, acquired in a debt swap deal—the Colombo government was forgiven $1 billion in debt to Beijing in exchange for the Hambantota facility. China has also gained access to facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles and Oman as part of the maritime component of its Silk Road trade and infrastructure initiative. While the Silk Road is an ostensibly civilian project, China has also established its first foreign military base at Djibouti, leading Western wonks to warn that Beijing is seeking a "string of pearls" network of bases across the Indian Ocean.  (Map via CIMSEC)

South Asia

ISIS terror targets restive Baluchistan

A suicide bomber killed at least 130 at a campaign rally in Pakistan's Balochistan province— the deadliest attack in the country since 2014. A local candidate with the Balochistan Awami Party was among the dead. The local franchise of the Islamic State took credit for the attack. Radio Free Europe portrays the BAP as part of the Pakistani military establishment’s plan to undermine Baluch ethno-nationalist groups. Balochistan province is part of the larger region of Baluchistan, homeland of the Baluch people, long divided between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are movements for Baluch independence in each of these countries, but they have been unable to unite across the nation-state boundaries. The attack may point to an ISIS strategy to disrupt electoral ethno-nationalist initiatives, and co-opt the Baluch struggle across all three borders, wedding it to Sunni extremism. (Map via Atheer)

South Asia

Bangladesh: UN condemns deadly ‘drug war’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein condemned the government of Bangladesh for the killing of suspected drug offenders by security forces. The High Commissioner responded to reports that 130 individuals had been killed in three weeks and thousands arrested after the government proclaimed a "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal drugs. He especially expressed concern over the government's public message claiming that the individuals killed were not innocent and that "mistakes can occur in an anti-narcotics drive." He also raised concerns that "already vulnerable communities living in slums were particularly being targeted," and that drug users may fear being arrested or killed for seeking treatment or just accessing health services. Zeid called on the government to review the incidents and hold human rights violators accountable. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

South Asia

Pakistan: death penalty in slaying of Sufi singer

Pakistan's army high command approved the death penalty for 10 condemned jihadists who were convicted by a military tribunal of attacks that claimed over 60 lives—including the assassination of Amjad Sabri, one of the country's most revered singers of qawwalii, traditional Sufi devotional music. Sabri was on his way to a televised Ramadan performance in Karachi when his car was attacked by gunmen, and his many followers hailed justice in the case. But in the two years since Sabri's death, attacks on Sufis in Pakistan have continued, with suicide blasts and horrific massacres at shrines and mosques. (Photo via PTI)