Islamic State claims Pakistan mosque attack and Police strike in Minas Gerais, Brazil
Pakistan: IS-claimed attack in Peshawar highlights rising insecurity along Afghan border
The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing targeting a Shi’a Mosque in the northern city of Peshawar on March 4, underscoring a recent increase in militant activity in the country and prompting fears of growing instability on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. According to Peshawar’s police chief, an armed man exchanged gunfire with two police officers outside the mosque, killing one and injuring the other. The bomber then entered the mosque and detonated his suicide vest, killing at least 64 people and wounding nearly 200 others. The incident is among the deadliest attacks against Pakistan’s Shi’a minority – frequently targeted by Sunni militants, including IS and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – in Peshawar since December 2014, when the TTP killed more than 140 people at the Army Public School and Degree College. The recent bombing comes amid a surge in terrorist activity in Pakistan characterized primarily by an escalation of attacks targeting Pakistani military personnel and assets. Pakistan witnessed a 42% increase in reported terrorist attacks from 2020 to 2021. The majority of these incidents are attributed to the TTP, which has received considerable financial and operational support from the Taliban in Afghanistan. The group claimed an additional 42 attacks in January 2022, compared to 17 incidents in January 2021, indicating a notable increase in militant activity. Emboldened by the Taliban’s capture of Afghanistan in August 2021, the TTP is expected to continue its offensive against the Pakistani government in the medium term, which indicates a likely deterioration in the security environment countrywide. Moreover, IS has intensified its attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan as a sign of resistance to the Taliban regime in Kabul and its allies across the border. According to Pakistani security forces, this most recent attack was executed by an Afghan national residing in Pakistan who had returned to Afghanistan for training necessary to orchestrate the bombing; the transnational nature of the attack highlights how a deteriorated security environment in Afghanistan is likely to impact the region as a whole. As IS exploits opportunities to challenge the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and more easily strike at adversaries in Pakistan, violence in border areas is likely to intensify in the medium-to-long term.
Brazil: Minas Gerais police labor dispute raises concerns over increase in criminal activity
Security forces in the state of Minas Gerais have issued calls to strike and have held disruptive demonstrations over inadequate salaries in Belo Horizonte since Feb. 21 amid ongoing negotiations with state authorities, raising fears of a major work stoppage and a potential crime wave in Brazil’s second-most populous state. The most recent protest, though banned by local officials, took place March 9 in the regional capital and involved hundreds of police personnel; local media report that participants halted traffic in the city and detonated several small explosive devices, though no major injuries were reported. Participants demanded a 24% salary increase previously promised by governor Romeu Zema, who recently offered a much lower 10% wage increase to adjust for inflation. Due to low wages and poor working conditions, police strikes are common in Brazil. These events often cause significant disruption and lead to a spike in criminal activity. A police strike in Espírito Santo in 2017 triggered a wave of looting, robberies, and homicides – 200 people were killed, and carjackings increased tenfold over the span of 21 days. Schools, health clinics, public transportation, and local businesses were forced to suspend operations, resulting in at least USD 30 million in estimated losses. During a 13-day police strike in the state of Ceará in February 2019, more than 200 targeted killings occurred in the state, marking the most violent month in the state records. In Minas Gerais, two-thirds of the government’s net revenue is allocated for salaries and pensions, suggesting that it is unlikely governor Zema will be able to fulfill his 2019 commitment to substantially raise salaries. While the prospect of increased criminal activity has yet to materialize, prolonged negotiations between the state government and security forces could lead to significant interruptions in police activity in the state; a subsequent rise in criminal offenses should not be ruled out in the short-to-medium term.