The holy month started ominously in the southern region, where most Thai Muslims live and where fighting has claimed thousands of lives. The car bombing started fires at shops and residences and sent black smoke wafting from a row of four-story buildings in a commercial area of Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province.
Seven people were injured, including four who were briefly trapped on the roof of a burning building, said police Col. Maitree Chimcherd. He said rebels hid the homemade bomb in a pickup truck parked in front of a computer store.
On Thursday night, a roadside bomb killed a villager and wounded his companion while they were hunting for squirrels in the woods in Yala province, said police Col. Wichai Jaengsakul.
Still, residents of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces flocked to local markets Friday to shop for fresh and dried fruit including date palm to be consumed at dusk after the first day of fasting ends.
Pakistan: Muslims strike in Gawadar, Balochistan, Peshawar, Hangu and Upper Dir districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, thus marked the first day of the holy month with bombing and killing. On the occasion of Ramadan a hitherto unknown organisation with the name of ‘The Base of Jihad’, while claiming responsibility for the terrorist attack against Israeli tourists in Burgas, said: ‘The month of Ramadan is a month of holy war and death for Allah; it is a month for fighting the enemies of Allah’. Pakistani militants, following the same ideology, intensified their attacks during Ramzan.
The first attack of the holy month was reported in Gawadar coastal area of Balochistan when six security personnel were killed and four others injured as militants fired rockets at a security checkpost. The unidentified militants attacked the checkpost located in Pishukan area of Gawadar with rockets and heavy artillery fire. The attackers fled the scene and no arrest was made.
In the second incident at least three people were killed and seven others injured in a powerful remote-controlled blast in Daug Darra in Upper Dir. According to local police, the remote-controlled explosion targeted a vehicle that was en route from Shotkas to Sringal while carrying some members of pro-government Qaumi Lashkar (private armed forces against Taliban.
Daug Darra is considered to be a stronghold of an anti-Taliban militia set up by local people in Upper Dir district. The district lies close to eastern Afghanistan’s troubled provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. Although the attack was not claimed by anyone, some intelligence officials in Upper Dir said the attackers were followers of Maulana Fazlullah, militant leader at Swat valley who is currently hiding in Afghanistan.
The Upper Dir attack was the first attack of Ramadan from Maulana Fazlullah-led militants.
On the first day of Ramadan, another bomb also ripped through Pishtakhara area of Peshawar, which fortunately did not cause any casualty. The bomb went off in an open field.
The largest attack of the days took place when a member of Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan detonated his explosive-laden vehicle in the compound of another pro-government militant group in the bordering area of Kurram and Hangu. The attack resulted in the killing of 10 people while another 20 people sustained injuries. TTP spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan, while taking responsibility, called it a ‘successful attack’.
Iraq: A car bomb in the centre of the Iraqi shiite holy city of Najaf wounded 23 people on Sunday, security and medical officials said.
The attack struck near a restaurant in Najaf’s old town, provincial health department spokesman Salim Naama said. Of the 23 wounded, four were seriously hurt, he said.
“The terrorists tried to put the car near the shrine, but security measures prevented them from getting there, so they blew it up in the old city,” provincial police chief Major General Abdulkarim al-Amiri said, referring to a shrine to a principal figure of Shiite Islam that is located in Najaf.
He did not give a precise toll from the attack.
Najaf, 150 kilometres (95 miles) south of Baghdad, remains one of Iraq’s safer cities, and is frequented by Shiite Muslims pilgrims from around the world seeking to visit the shrine to Imam Ali, son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohammed.
The latest violence comes after the country suffered a spike in unrest in June when at least 282 people were killed, according to an AFP tally, though government figures said 131 Iraqis died.
India: India’s army moved in to stop armed clashes over land between settlers and local villagers that have killed at least 11 people in India’s remote northeast over the past two days, police said Sunday.
Two days of battles between the ethnic Bodo community and Muslim settlers also injured at least 10 people in Kokrajhar district, nearly 250 kilometres (155 miles) west of Gauhati, the state capital, said S.N. Singh, a police inspector-general.
The clashes in Assam state began after assailants killed one person. As the violence spread to more than half a dozen villages in the region, nearly 7,000 people fled their homes and took refuge in state-run relief camps, Singh said on Sunday.
Afghanistan: Taliban insurgents executed five civilians near Kabul for working with NATO troops, authorities said Sunday, the latest in a series of militant activities in villages around the capital.
The news of the incident in Wardak province’s Jalrez district, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Kabul, came a day after the insurgents publicly lashed two Afghan men and just weeks after the public execution of a woman for adultery.
In Jalrez, the rebels captured six Afghans returning home from work at a NATO base. The bodies of five of them were found on Sunday, all booby-trapped with explosives, a statement from the provincial governor’s office said.
Their hands were tied behind their backs, a witness said.
The sixth man fled his captors, the statement added, blaming the killings on the Taliban, the main insurgent group fighting the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and a 130,000-strong U.S.-led NATO force.
The rebels are particularly active across the southern and eastern provinces, and appear to have stepped up efforts to impose their harsh version of Islamic Sharia laws implemented when they were in power between 1996 and 2001.
On Saturday, Taliban insurgents whipped two men 40 times in public in a village south of Kabul after accusing them of attempting to kidnap a young boy for ransom.
Egypt: A natural gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was attacked and blown up by militants on Sunday, the 15th time such an attack has been carried out since a popular uprising ousted the former government in February 2011.
According to security officials, gunmen drove close to the pipeline in the largely unprotected Sinai Peninsula and placed bombs under the pipeline before detonating from a distance.
The natural gas pipeline is controversial in Egypt as it delivers gas to both Jordan and Israel. Activists have called for the deal with Israel to be canceled, as gas being sold to the country is well below international rates.
The blast happened east of the northern Sinai city of al-Arish, where it breaks into a separate branch for Jordan and Israel.
The 20-year gas deal struck with Israel in 2005 under Mubarak’s reign entails very favorable conditions for Israel. It is highly-contested among Egyptians who see the deal as a selling-off of its natural resources, besides the objection of exporting to Israel as a matter of principle.
On the other hand, Israel is highly dependent on the gas imports from Egypt, which accounts for 43 percent of its gas supplies.
The Sinai has suffered time and again from a fragile security situation, which was aggravated after the police thinned out in the wake of the January 2011 revolution.
Ethiopia: Police clashed on Saturday with scores of Muslims protesters complaining that the state is interfering in their religion, witnesses and officials said.
The protesters, some wearing masks, blocked the entrance of the Anwar Mosque in the west of the capital Addis Ababa and hurled stones at riot police who had surrounded the compound after noon prayers.
“Police broke inside the mosque and arrested many people, including several members of the (protest organising) committee. They also fired teargas at protesters outside,” said an activist who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.
Another witness said he had seen empty tear gas canisters strewn on the ground. It was not immediately possible to verify these reports.
Thousands of Muslims have staged sporadic street protests in the capital since late last year, arguing that the government is promoting an alien branch of Islam, the Al Ahbash sect, which is avowedly apolitical and has numerous adherents in the United States.
The government denies promoting Al Ahbash, but is determined to prevent Islamic militancy spilling over from neighbouring Sudan or lawless Somalia.
Around 60 percent of Ethiopians are Christian and 30 percent Muslim, mostly of the moderate, pragmatic Sufi tradition.
Diplomats and analysts say there could be potential for any militant groups to exploit sectarian divisions and trigger violence.
The government accuses “extremist elements” of sparking violence at the protests.
Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said police had arrested ‘several’ people on Saturday but denied that police had used teargas.
“These were masked assailants from extremist groups that prevented mosque attendants from leaving the compound after the completion of noon prayers,” he said.
“They tried to incite violence, they threw stones and damaged property.”