TIME isis

ISIS Faces a Crowded Landscape of Terror in Pakistan

Women mourn their relative Mohammed Ali Khan, 15, a student who was killed during an attack by Pakistani Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, at his house in Peshawar in 2014.
Zohra Bensemra—Reuters Women mourn their relative Mohammed Ali Khan, 15, a student who was killed during an attack by Pakistani Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, at his house in Peshawar in 2014.

With the Taliban dominant, ISIS will have trouble making space in Pakistan—though the group is becoming more popular

The brutal methods that the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has become notorious for were already seen some years ago, first in Afghanistan and later in Pakistan, as the two branches of the Taliban in those countries took root. The Pakistani Taliban, in many ways, are the closest analogue of the terror group now expanding across the Arab world.

Formed in 2007, the Pakistani Taliban seized territory, imposed its own brutal brand of Islamic law, executed opponents — including landowners, politicians, and others they deemed to be guilty of crimes of “vulgarity” and “heresy”. Women from among the famous “dancing girls of Swat” were found dead, their bodies dumped in the central square of Swat’s main town. Preachers of Sufi Islam, a syncretic form of the religion that puts a heavy emphasis on ascetic practices, were brutally killed – their bodies cut apart and hanged publicly.

Beheadings were also a constant feature. When the Pakistani Taliban kidnapped over 100 Pakistani soldiers in South Waziristan in 2007, they severed the heads of many, especially the Shia soldiers. A sword was used to cut across both ways and the head then lifted from the torso. The bodies of journalists were also discovered in some cases, dumped, with bullet holes in their backs.

READ MORE: Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

The Taliban, like ISIS, share a sectarian ideology. Those whom they do not deem to be in line with their brutal brand of Islam, they declare to be non-Muslims. Those who aren’t Muslims, they deem to be “worthy of being killed.” This has led to attacks on army officers and religious minorities of various stripes — Shia Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

The Taliban work closely with both al-Qaeda and long-established anti-Shiite groups like Sunni extremists Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. There is a lot of slippage between these groups; the boundaries between them are often ill-defined. Also, like ISIS, these groups will turn to kindap and ransom as a means of generating funds. Warren Weinstein, an American academic and development expert in his 70s, is still being held by al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas after having been sold up through various groups.

This makes Pakistan both an attractive breeding ground for ISIS, but also one that is so crowded out by entrenched terror groups that they may struggle to break into the market. “It’s an already busy landscape for militant groups,” says Simbal Khan, Pakistan scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington. “There’s no vacuum for a new group.”

That doesn’t mean they are not trying, and in some cases, already finding success. The Pakistani government has issued reports warning that “ISIS” or “Daesh” (as it is known by its Arabic acronym) has collaborated with sectarian militant groups, like Jundallah and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, along the border with Iran. Elsewhere, in November 2014, a series of former Pakistani Taliban militants announced their allegiance to ISIS and al-Baghdadi.

In Pakistan’s second city of Lahore, graffiti has appeared celebrating ISIS. Government officials and analysts say this is a more a feature of ISIS propaganda than any evidence that the group has operational capacity in Pakistan. Still, that same month, a number of ISIS activists were arrested from Lahore — they are thought to have been former members of anti-Shiite organizations that have a foothold in Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital.

After the Peshawar massacre, where Taliban soldiers slaughtered nearly 150 people at a public school, there appears to be greater clarity among Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership about the need to fight terrorism. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced near the end of 2014 that there would no longer be any distinction made between “good militants” and “bad militants.” The policy of backing militants who attack Afghanistan and India while only fighting those who launched terror attacks at home in Pakistan would be reversed.

While the jury is still out on whether this will become official and lasting policy, the army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif — the most powerful man in Pakistan — has said that he will not allow a group like ISIS to establish a base inside Pakistan. They are watching events in the Arab world with mounting anxiety, but Pakistan and Afghanistan’s focus remains very much local for the moment. “The Pakistani leadership, in civvies and in uniform, are on one page,” says Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s Defense Minister. “We must fight for our existence, and the existence of all humanity.”

TIME Australia

Former Gitmo Inmate ‘Relieved’ After Terrorism Conviction Quashed

Former Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks, right, in Sydney on February 19, 2015
Saeed Khan—AFP/Getty Images Former Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks in Sydney on February 19, 2015

U.S. court says Australian David Hicks did not commit a war crime

Australian David Hicks announced relief after a U.S. court overturned his terrorism conviction Wednesday.

The court declared that the former Guantanamo Bay inmate did not commit a war crime, therefore his conviction was not eligible to be heard in a military court, reports the BBC.

“It’s a relief because it’s over,” Hicks said in a Sydney news conference.

Hicks, 39, pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of providing material support to terrorism. In 2000, Hicks trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan and participated in an attack against Indian forces. In 2001, the Northern Alliance captured Hicks in Afghanistan, where he met Osama bin Laden and enrolled in Al-Qaeda training camps, the BBC reported.

In a rare move, the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review overturned his conviction in a unanimous ruling. Under new rules, providing material support for terrorism no longer qualifies as a war crime for events prior to 2006.

Hicks was sentenced to seven years in Guantanamo Bay, but after pleading guilty, he was allowed to return to Australia after nine months. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said, “Let’s not forget whatever the legalities… he was up to no good on his own admission.”

[BBC]

TIME Pakistan

In Pakistan, Vaccinating Children Has Become A Deadly Battle

In this Feb. 16, 2015 photo, a Pakistani health worker gives polio vaccine to a child in Rawalpindi, Pakistan
B.K. Bangash—AP In this Feb. 16, 2015 photo, a Pakistani health worker gives polio vaccine to a child in Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Polio is endemic in Pakistan after the Taliban banned inoculations

(PESHAWAR, Pakistan) — While vaccine distrust has sparked debates amid a measles outbreak in the United States, Pakistan is in a deadly battle to wipe out polio.

Long eradicated in the West, polio remains endemic in Pakistan after the Taliban banned vaccinations, attacks targeted medical staffers and suspicions lingered about the inoculations.

The persistence of this crippling, sometimes fatal virus shows just how difficult wiping out a disease can be, even amid campaigns seeing thousands of vaccinators go into the field to offer polio drops to children, sometimes under armed guard.

“When we leave in the morning, we do it at the risk of our life,” vaccinator Rubina Iqbal said. “We don’t know whether we will come back alive or not.”

Polio is a highly contagious virus generally transmitted in unsanitary conditions. There is no cure for the virus, which mostly affects children under 5, though it can be prevented with a vaccine.

In the U.S., polio terrified mothers and fathers as outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year until Dr. Jonas Salk invented a vaccine in the 1950s. After eradicating smallpox in 1980, authorities turned their attention to polio. In Pakistan, the disease — and the backlash against vaccinations — is mostly in its northwest and the port city of Karachi, although the vaccination drive is country-wide.

The scope of the vaccinators’ efforts in Pakistan is impressive. In January, officials targeted some 35 million children during a nationwide campaign, said Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, who oversees the country’s polio emergency operations center. Smaller campaigns are held more frequently in areas where the virus is believed to be especially prevalent. Workers at central bus stops and train stations also vaccinate child travelers.

Neighboring India was declared polio-free in 2014 — a massive logistical feat for the country of 1.2 billion people. Many experts thought success was near in Pakistan in 2012 but then the number of cases shot up last year.

But instead of parents’ groups worried about autism and celebrities relying on a discredited scientific article like in the U.S., Pakistan’s anti-vaccine campaign has been waged at the end of the barrel of an assault rifle. The Pakistani Taliban banned vaccinations in 2012 after U.S. Navy SEALs launched a raid in Abbottabad in 2011 that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Ahead of the raid, the CIA sent in a local doctor who claimed to be conducting a hepatitis vaccine program to collect DNA from children at bin Laden’s home. That sparked widespread distrust, in a country where many also fear the inoculations are a plot to sterilize Muslim children.

By December 2012, militant gunmen began targeting vaccination teams in what became a “horrendous serial killing,” said Elias Durry, the World Health Organization’s point person in Pakistan on polio. An estimated 75 people involved in Pakistan’s vaccination efforts have been killed since, Safdar said. On Tuesday, authorities in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province found the bullet-riddled bodies of four people who disappeared Saturday while preparing for a polio campaign.

Infected children and others who travel outside of the region can lead to fresh outbreaks in cities — and even other countries — where polio has already been wiped out. Outside of Pakistan, only Afghanistan and Nigeria are countries where polio remains endemic.

To fight polio, Pakistan’s government has created emergency operations centers in Islamabad and provincial capitals where officials meet daily, a tactic that helped immensely in Nigeria. In certain high-risk areas they introduced a longer-lasting, injectable vaccine instead of oral drops.

A Pakistani military operation launched in June in the North Waziristan tribal area also allowed vaccinators to finally access children there after hundreds of thousands of people fled the region and settled elsewhere in Pakistan. Vaccinators in November also started going door-to-door in South Waziristan for the first time in two years, and the intensity of attacks against vaccination teams has slowed, Safdar said. The number of people outright refusing the vaccine has dropped, officials say.

Officials also have implemented new security strategies to protect vaccinators.

“By this time last year, nobody could go to North Waziristan. … Vaccinators were being killed left and right,” Durry said. “So those issues are improving, and have improved dramatically.”

Vaccinators say they use their own arguments to convince reluctant residents, such as talking about how they give the drops to their own children. However, they can also quickly recall stories of being harassed on the job. In northwest Pakistan many people are suspicious of women working outside the home.

Bureaucratic challenges also beset the vaccination drive. Vaccinators complain they don’t get paid on time. Polio workers in the Bajaur tribal area recently protested, saying they hadn’t been paid for five months.

To change that, paychecks are now deposited directly into vaccinators’ bank accounts, Safdar said. But delays still happen, he said.

Pakistani officials also are reaching out to the religious community for help convincing people to take the vaccine. Imams like Mohammad Israr Madni, who teaches at the influential Haqqania religious school in the northwestern city of Nowshera, are part of those efforts.

“I want to reach every madrassa, every mosque, to convince (Muslim scholars) and pave the way for awareness among people,” Madni said.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is the Taliban’s fracturing a sign of its demise or a possible turn to a more lethal strategy?

By Sundarsan Raghavan in the Washington Post

2. To fight cybercrime, President Obama needs Silicon Valley.

By Katie Benner in Bloomberg View

3. The FDA needs updated systems to review drugs — made from our own cells — that target cancer and more.

By Peter W. Huber in City Journal

4. Our high incarceration rate no longer reduces crime.

By Lauren-Brooke Eisen in USA Today

5. Better than an action movie: Catch a college lecture on your next commercial flight.

By Kim Clark in Money

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Pakistan

Apparent Suicide Bombing Kills Three at Pakistan Police Complex

Lahore police chief Haider Ashraf says several people were wounded

(LAHORE, Pakistan) — Authorities say an apparent suicide bombing has killed at least three people outside a police complex in eastern Pakistan.

Lahore police chief Haider Ashraf says several people were wounded in the blast.

Live television footage from the scene showed smoke billowing from the building and people fleeing the scene.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though the country faces a Taliban insurgency and other threats from Islamic extremist groups.

TIME Pakistan

Witness the Aftermath of the Terror Attack on a Shi’ite Peshawar Mosque

At least 19 people were killed in the latest sectarian attack in Pakistan

The terror-worn city of Peshawar was struck by a new terror attack targeting a Shi’ite mosque on Friday that left at least 19 people dead.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Reuters, saying it was in revenge for the government’s crackdown on Islamist militants in the wake of the Dec. 16 assault on a Peshawar school that killed more than 150 people, mostly students. The Taliban, who have also claimed responsibility for the assault on the school, threatened more “revenge attacks” in a video sent to reporters, according to Reuters.

On Friday, five or six gunmen wearing military uniforms broke into the mosque as Friday prayers finished and opened fire, a witness told Reuters. Three explosions were heard during the attack.

The Pakistani government pledged to combat Islamist groups in the wake of the school attacks, but minority groups throughout the country say they still feel insecure. An attack last month on a Shi’ite mosque in Shikarpur killed more than 60 people.

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Feb. 6 – Feb. 13

From the Ukrainian peace plan to Brazil’s worsening drought and the disarmament of South Sudan’s child soldiers to a sex-free Valentine’s Day in Bangkok, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Pakistan

At Least 19 Killed in Attack on Pakistani Shi’ite Mosque

A man cries over the death of his relative, who was killed in an explosion in a Shi'ite mosque, outside a hospital in Peshawar Feb. 13, 2015.
Khuram Parvez—Reuters A man cries over the death of his relative, who was killed in an explosion in a Shi'ite mosque, outside a hospital in Peshawar Feb. 13, 2015.

Three or four men attacked the mosque and at least one blew himself up

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Pakistani official says that the death toll in a militant attack on a Shiite Muslim mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar has risen to 19.

Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani says the attack on Friday also wounded more than 40 people. There was much shooting in the immediate aftermath of the explosion but he says the violence is now over.

A senior police officer, Mian Mohammad Saeed, said roughly three or four attackers entered the mosque, and that one suicide bomber blew himself up.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

TIME Behind the Photos

Meet the Photographer Who Found How to Balance a Life of Love and War

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario has published her first memoir

“I would never think of myself as a role model,” says Lynsey Addario. The 41-year-old, twice-kidnapped, mother-of-one, award-winning photojournalist has released, this month, her first book: an autobiography of her life as a Connecticut-born photographer who has spent the last 15 years witnessing the true human cost of war, particularly for women across the world.

And yet, even if Addario declines to be defined as a role model, with It’s What I Do, she hopes that her own experience, fraught with doubts about her intertwined professional and personal lives, will encourage other women to define their own paths. “[This book is the continuation of my work] as a messenger of experiences,” she tells TIME. “In this case, they are my own experiences.”

Addario didn’t set out to write an autobiography. Her goal, at first, was to produce a monograph of her work. “I’ve always wanted to do a photo book but I’ve never done one because I’ve never felt ready, I just didn’t feel my work was good enough,” she says. “I’ve seen so many photographers rush to do books the minute they start shooting but one great thing about photography is that the images don’t go away, so the more I sit with these images, the more I learn which ones have had the most impact.”

In a career that spanned two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and saw Addario travel to Cuba, India, Pakistan, Israel and Libya, the photographer has had many close calls. She was briefly abducted in Iraq in 2004, and was injured in a car accident in Pakistan in 2009. But, it’s her second abduction, in Libya in 2011 that has come to define, for better or worse, her career as a woman photographer – bringing with it worldwide attention to Addario’s work and the impetus for her memoir.

When Addario was released after five days in captivity, she took a step back from the frontlines, she says, and started contemplating the idea of producing her first monograph. “I was having conversations with Aperture about trying to do a photo book [until] I found out [the photojournalists] Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros had been killed in Libya. It threw me for a loop,” she says. “I had survivor’s guilt. It sort of brought back the trauma of my own experience in Libya in a way that was even exacerbated. I didn’t shun photography, but I felt I needed to tap in into something different.”

The thought of writing a book was, at first, daunting “but it wasn’t as daunting as doing a photo book,” she says. “With photography, I always think that it’s not good enough,” while writing simply involved getting the facts down on paper. “I kept journals for many years,” Addario tells TIME. “I also relied pretty heavily on email correspondence between my family, my friends and myself. So it was more of a matter of pulling all of it together.”

The result is a series of vignettes and moments that “really struck in my mind,” she says. From her first trips in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she had to play a game of cat-and-mouse with a clerk at an Islamabad embassy in order to get a visa, to her delicate relationships with men over the years, It’s What I Do, is about the difficult, and often unattainable, balance that most photographers struggle with in their professional and personal lives.

But, it’s also a book about a photographer’s commitment to her subjects, especially women, who, as Addario says, are victims of their birthplace.

“As a photographer and as a journalist, I am privy to people’s most intimate moments and it’s always been surprising by how much people open up to me,” she says. “All of these moments – women giving birth, women talking about rape – are incredibly personal and incredibly private.”

Being afforded this kind of access, Addario feels she has a responsibility to show the world what she’s seen. “I feel a huge pressure to be successful in communicating their trauma. I have to make sure that I take this information and disseminate it in a way that’s useful to them in the long term; that will prevent other women from going through what they went through. I can’t imagine not dedicating my life to trying to stop those things from happening.”

But Addario also feels guilt, she says. “Why was I so lucky to be born in Connecticut and to be offered this privileged life when so many people around the world are born into lives of extreme labor and hardship. I constantly struggle with this. Why are some people luckier than others?”

Luck almost ran out for the photographer when she was abducted, alongside her colleagues Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks in Libya on March 16, 2011. But, the experience, recounted in great details in It’s What I Do, only reinforced Addario’s commitment. “It actually gave me strength to realize that I’m not a victim,” she tells TIME. “I am a woman who makes these decisions to go to war zones. I know what the risks are. I know it’s possible that I could to get kidnapped. I know it’s possible that I could get assaulted. Those are the risks I take in order to tell these stories.”

She continues: “When I was in Libya, there are distinct moments and images that are seared in my brain that I’ll never forget: being tied up, blindfolded and groped, begging for my life, and begging for someone not to rape me. In these moments, I’ve thought so much about all the women I photographed over the years and how unbelievably strong they were. That was such a source of strength because I thought that if they could get through it when they’ve gone through so much worse, [I could get through it too].”

After her kidnapping, Addario developed a more comprehensive understanding of the people she had been covering all these years. Similarly, she says, becoming a mother was also a defining moment in her life as a photographer. “When I became a mother, I realized so much more about the mothers I’ve photographed and that love that is inexplicable for someone that doesn’t have a child.”

But Addario was ambivalent about becoming a mother, she tells TIME. “I just thought that my life was going to end and I would never be able to photograph again. I couldn’t figure it out because I didn’t have any role models, I didn’t know a single woman conflict photographer who had children.”

This lack of female role models, which has constantly plagued the male-dominated world of photojournalism, is best exemplified in the comments Addario has received over the years from readers. “Everyone is having a field day judging what a horrible woman I am, what a bad mother I am,” she says. “I find it fascinating that anyone feel like they have the right to tell me how to live my life.”

“All of these people,” she adds, “seem to forget that the places I’m photographing are rife with women and mothers. Why are they not up in arms about those women and how they have to live? I think it’s very easy to judge.”

Before writing this book, Addario knew she’d become, once again, the target of such commentary. “I knew every single person would come out of the woods and feel they have a right to judge a pregnant woman, a mother,” she says. “But where are all the people screaming at all the men who leave their pregnant wives at home and go off to a war zone? Why is there no uproar about that?”

And while Addario hopes her book will foster a dialogue, for her, the most important goal was to be honest and open about her life and her struggles. “Sometimes I’ve made mistakes,” she says, “and sometimes I haven’t, but I’ve always learned something, and that’s what I want to teach my son.”

Lynsey Addario is a photojournalist represented by Getty Images Reportage. Her memoir, It’s What I do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, is published by Penguin Press.

Cubie King, who produced this video interview, is a senior producer at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Pakistan

Bomb Blast in Southern Pakistan Kills 56 at Shi’ite Mosque

Rescue workers and a policeman stand at the site of an explosion in a Shi'ite mosque in Shikarpur, located in Pakistan's Sindh province, Jan. 30, 2015.
Amir Hussain—Reuters Rescue workers and a policeman stand at the site of an explosion in a Shi'ite mosque in Shikarpur, located in Pakistan's Sindh province, Jan. 30, 2015.

Hospitals are appealing to residents to donate blood for the wounded

KARACHI, Pakistan — A bomb blast ripped through a mosque in Pakistan belonging to members of the Shiite minority sect of Islam just as worshippers were gathering for Friday prayers, killing 56 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.

Dr. Shaukat Ali Memon, who heads the hospital in Shikarpur where the dead and wounded were brought, gave the death toll to Pakistan’s state television. He said that 50 people, many severely wounded, were also brought to the hospital. Patients have also been shifted to nearby hospitals in the cities of Larkana and Sukkur, he said.

In a sign of how serious the explosion was, Memon appealed to residents to donate blood for the wounded.

Pakistani television showed area residents and worshippers frantically ferrying the dead and wounded to the hospital.

Initial reports suggest that it was a bomb planted in the area, Sain Rakhio Mirani, the top police official in the district told Pakistan’s Geo TV.

Shikarpur is in Sindh province, roughly 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the port city of Karachi.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Sunni Muslim extremists have often targeted religious institutions of Shiites, whom they do not consider to be true Muslims.

While Karachi has been the site of repeated bombings blamed on militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban, the northern part of Sindh province has generally been much more peaceful.

But recent years have seen a trend of extremist organizations increasingly active in the central and northern part of the province, according to a new report by the United States Institute of Peace.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser