TTP attack in southern Pakistan and flooding impacts coastal Brazil
Pakistan: Karachi police station attack claimed by Pakistani Taliban
A Feb. 17 attack on a police headquarters in the southern city of Karachi highlights the motivation and capability of Pakistan’s largest and most active terrorist group – the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – to carry out sophisticated attacks against high-security, government-affiliated targets in urban areas far removed from the country’s more volatile border regions. Militants besieged the building and exchanged gunfire with police for more than three hours before security forces were able to regain control. Three police, one ranger, and a civilian were killed, and over a dozen other security personnel were injured. TTP fighters suffered minor casualties with one fighter and two suicide bombers dying in the fighting; at least one of the bombers was able to detonate his ordnance inside the police station. In the following days, police reportedly arrested at least 10 people in connection with the incident. Attacks by the TTP – which claimed responsibility for the Feb. 17 attack – have intensified since November 2022, when the group unilaterally ended its ceasefire with the Pakistani government. The most recent major attack prior to Friday took place in early February, when a suicide bombing at a mosque inside a police compound in the city of Peshawar killed 100 people and injured more than 200; the tactics used and specific targeting of police suggest likely TTP involvement, despite mixed claims of responsibility for the attack. The TTP is an umbrella organization of various armed Islamist militant groups, operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, with close ties to the Afghan Taliban. The group has threatened to conduct more attacks unless the Pakistani government releases TTP members currently in custody and reduces its presence in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Furthermore, the Taliban’s 2022 return to power in Afghanistan has created favorable conditions for TTP fighters to carry out bolder cross-border attacks against police and government targets in Pakistan. While there is currently no indication that the TTP plans to alter its target preference to civilian (including foreign) entities, collateral injury and damage cannot be ruled out – particularly during any future attacks in crowded urban areas.
Brazil: Heavy rain causes destructive flooding in coastal São Paulo
Heavy rainfall that began on Feb. 18 has resulted in severe flooding, dozens of casualties, and transport and operational disruptions in coastal south-eastern Brazil. Twice the amount of rainfall expected for the entire month of February fell in 24 hours in areas of São Paulo State, leading to high floodwaters and landslides that have killed at least 46 people and displaced more than 2,500 others. The worst impacts of the flooding were reported in the city of São Sebastião (located approximately 130 km/81 mi east-southeast of central São Paulo), as well as other areas situated east of the state capital such as Bertioga, Ilhabela, and Ubatuba; there have been no reports of major flooding in the city of São Paulo. The floods have damaged private property and infrastructure – including interrupting supplies of electricity, water, and internet in São Sebastião – and left major roadways impassable. Local media report that, as of Feb. 21, the Rio-Santos federal highway was blocked by debris and landslides at several points, while portions of the state highway between Mogi de Cruzes and Bertioga would likely remain impassable for up to two months. Other notable disruptions include a brief suspension of operations at South America’s largest port, located in Santos. São Paulo Governor Tarcísio de Freitas declared a 180-day state of calamity in impacted areas on Feb. 19 and is coordinating the state’s disaster response with federal authorities. Governor de Freitas has also urged tourists visiting coastal São Paulo – many for the popular Carnival celebrations – to depart the area in order to “relieve pressure” on impacted communities. While a decrease in the intensity of rainfall since Feb. 19 has permitted the launch of an initial disaster response, a “Yellow” storm warning remains in effect in impacted areas of coastal São Paulo, and meteorologists warn that conditions remain favorable for continued precipitation through at least Feb. 23. More rainfall increases the likelihood of landslides in areas where the soil is already saturated and destabilized, potentially leading to further casualties and destruction and slowing response and recovery efforts.