Top Stories from the Development and Aid Workers News Service — DAWNS Digest.

BREAKING: Massive and Coordinated Suicide Bombing Attack Kills Scores of Afghan Shi’Ites

At least 58 people were killed in attacks against Shi’ite Muslims observing the holiday of Ashura in three cities (Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar -I-Sharif).  This was the first outright sectarian attack since the insurgency began. The Taliban quickly denied responsibility. “An e-mail message to news organizations from the spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, denied responsibility. ‘We strongly condemn this wild and inhuman act by our enemies, who are trying to blame us and trying to divide Afghans by doing such attacks on Muslims.’ All past suicide attacks in Afghanistan have been attributed to the Taliban insurgents or allied groups like the Haqqani networkand al Qaeda. There have been no known suicide attacks by other parties to the conflict. While Afghanistan’s Shiite minority community, mostly ethnic Hazaras, were savagely discriminated against during the years of Taliban rule, they had not been singled out for attack during the current insurgency. Unlike neighboring Pakistan, where sectarian violence is rampant between Shiite and Sunni groups, there had been little such conflict in Afghanistan. Ashura is the day on which Shiite Muslims honor the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Although it has long been a public holiday in Afghanistan, ceremonies were more visible this year than in the past. In Kabul, the suicide bomber was apparently among a procession of worshipers outside one of the main Shiite mosques, the Abul Fazal Abbas shrine in the Murad Khani neighborhood, close to the finance and defense ministries, when he detonated an explosive vest. The mosque was damaged by the blast.” ( NYT http://nyti.ms/vdCjJB)

Laurent Gbagbo Gets His Day In Court

Former Cote D’Ivoire strongman Laurent Gbagbo made his first public appearance at the International Criminal Court in a brief, 30 minute pro-forma hearing to confirm his identity and the charges against him.  The hearing was uneventful and the court set a date of June 18, 2012 for when the trial will commence. But new information is trickling out about how, exactly, Gbagbo’s extradition to the Hague occurred. “He said that while under house arrest in Ivory Coast, he had been provided with a bed, a mosquito net, a shower, and two meals a day, but couldn’t see the sun and knew what the weather was only from the sound of raindrops on the roof. He complained about his physical ailments, saying, “I am no longer a young person….I am 66 years old, my shoulder hurts, my wrists hurt.” He said that he had been given X-rays and medication on arrival in The Hague. ICC and Ivory Coast authorities kept Mr. Gbagbo’s arrest and transfer to The Hague secret as long as possible in case it was derailed or sparked unrest, issuing an arrest warrant that was sealed until the last minute.”  WSJ http://on.wsj.com/vl5j7j)
USAID’s Afghanistan Projects Are Running Low on Steam and Out of Money

As world leaders meet in Bonn to pledge their support for Afghanistan, the Financial Times takes a look at how budget cuts and a general weariness are forcing USAID to abandon its grand scheme for Afghanistan. “As a first step to balancing its books, USAid plans to cut some of the cash-for-work programmes it set up in former Taliban strongholds last summer, the US official said. The projects aimed to bolster support for the state in the volatile south, but some experts say the sudden infusion of money can do villages more harm than good. Instead, USAid will increase its focus on bolstering the capacity of the government of Hamid Karzai, the president, to maintain existing road and power projects and to extend its reach in key districts. The organisation also wants to cut red tape stifling small businesses to boost employment… USAid argues that it is buttressing the Afghan state by channelling about 35 per cent of its aid directly to ministries in Kabul. Progress towards meeting a target of 50 per cent has been slowed by a lack of trained officials and the Afghan government’s own struggle to spend its development budget.” (FT http://on.ft.com/ufoq4K)

Money Quote from a Donor: From a World Bank Press Release. “Five Multilateral Development Banks, who are lending some $8.4 billion annually for climate action in cities, agreed today on a new partnership to combat global warming.With the overall aim to better coordinate and deepen support to cities in adapting to and mitigating climate change, the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank have agreed to work more closely to develop common tools and metrics for cities.” (World Bank: http://bit.ly/rTPNi2)

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