Marriott bombing group threatens fresh attacks on US targets

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has said he will not allow any foreign power to violate the country’s soverignity “in the name of combatting terrorism.” In his opening address to the joint houses of parliament in Islamabad on Saturday, he said that Pakistan should also understand the limits of confrontation.

This was his first speech to MPs since he replaced Pervez Musharraf in August. It was also the first by a president in almost six years.

Ahead of his first meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York, Zardari also said that ties with India need to be “creatively re-invented.”

Zardari said that he would like to move ahead with India based on three pointers which were, as espoused by former PM Benazir Bhutto, to come up with new ideas, to make bold committments and to be honest in the relationship.

Zardari called for a parliamentary committee to investigate abolishing his powers to dissolve the assembly and dismiss the government.

“In the history of Pakistan this is the first president who is giving away his powers, he commented.”

Female suicide bombers kill 70 Iraqis (Iraq)

Al Qaeda in Iraq conducted two successful strikes in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk. At least seventy Iraqi civilians were killed and more than 300 wounded in four suicide attacks, CNN reported. The attacks were carried out by female terrorists.

The attacks in Baghdad occurred in three separate locations as the female bombers targeted Shia pilgrims traveling on foot to a shrine in the Kadhamiyah district. The three bombers waded into the crowds and detonated their suicide vests within thirty minutes of each other. Thirty-two Iraqis were reported killed and 102 were wounded.

In Kirkuk, a female suicide bomber detonated her vest in the middle of a crowd of more than 5,000 Kurds who gathered to protest the delay of provincial elections in Kirkuk. Just after the detonation, gunmen opened up on the crowd. Thirty-eight Iraqis were killed and 178 were wounded in the deadly attack. Five more were wounded after a clash broke out between “unknown gunmen” and security forces outside the headquarters of the Turkmen Party. A curfew was immediately imposed on the province.

Kirkuk remains a flashpoint for violence as Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen vie for political power in the northern city. The Kurds seek to bring the oil-rich city into the political sphere of the Kurdistan Regional Government while Kurds have retaken lands from Arabs settled in the region during the rule of Saddam Hussein. Last week, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law delaying provincial elections and setting up a power-sharing agreement between the parties. The Kurdish political parties walked out of Parliament in protest.

Today’s attacks demonstrate that while al Qaeda has suffered major setbacks in Iraq, the network still maintains the capacity to conduct high-profile, mass-casualty suicide strikes. The last major attack occurred on July 24, when a female suicide bomber killed eight Awakening fighters and wounded 15 during an attack in Baqubah.

Al Qaeda suicide bombers also struck in Diyala province on July 15. Two suicide bombers detonated their vests within the Saad military camp as Iraqi Army recruits gathered. Twenty-two recruits were killed and more than 55 wounded.

The last major bombing in Baghdad occurred on June 18, when a car bomb detonated in the Shia neighborhood of Hayy Hurriyah in Baghdad’s Kadhamiyah district. The US military determined the attack was carried out by cell run by a Mahdi Army leader named Haydar Mahdi Khadum Al Fawadi.

US, Iraqi forces target al Qaeda’s networks

The US and Iraqi military have heavily targeted al Qaeda networks in the central and northern provinces over the past two days. Eighty-eight al Qaeda operatives were captured and four were killed during operations.

Today, Coalition special forces captured 30 suspected al Qaeda fighters during raids in Abu Ghraib and Mosul. An al Qaeda cell leader and a bomb maker were captured in Abu Ghraib and a financier for Ninewa province was captured in Mosul. Also, Coalition forces surrounded “a hideout for AQI facilitators and smugglers coming in from Syria” in a village southwest of Mosul, and captured 15 terrorists.

Yesterday, US and Iraqi forces killed four al Qaeda fighters and detained 58 suspects during search operation in Ninewa province. Four Iraqi soldiers were killed during gun battle.

Iraqi and US forces are massing for a major offensive in Diyala province, where al Qaeda still maintains sanctuaries in the rural regions. The operation is expected to begin in early August.