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Pakistani Taliban Vows White House Assault

Group also claims responsibility for police academy attack

Image: Coffins of slain Pakistani police
Pakistani national flags placed over the coffins of police killed in an attack on a Pakistani police academy in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday, March 30, 2009. (Photo credit: Emilio Morenatti / AP)

March 31, 2009

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — The commander of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a Pakistani police academy and said the group was planning a terrorist attack on the White House that would “amaze” the world.

Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., said Monday’s attack on the outskirts of the eastern city of Lahore was retaliation for U.S. missile strikes against militants along the Afghan border.

“Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world,” Mehsud told The Associated Press by phone. He provided no details.

Mehsud has never been directly linked to any attacks outside Pakistan, but attacks blamed on his network of fighters have widened in scope and ambition in recent years. The threat comes days after President Barack Obama warned that al-Qaida is actively planning attacks on the United States from secret havens in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s former government and the CIA named Mehsud as the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Pakistani officials accuse him of harboring foreign fighters, including Central Asians linked to al-Qaida, and of training suicide bombers.

In his latest comments, Mehsud identified the White House as one of the targets in an interview with local Dewa Radio, a copy of which was obtained by the AP. …

Political turmoil

Mehsud also claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed four soldiers Monday in Bannu district and a suicide attack targeting a police station in Islamabad last week that killed one officer. …

A senior police investigator in the Lahore case, Zulfikar Hameed, said some of the men arrested in Monday’s attack corroborated Mehsud’s claim. …

The gunmen who attacked the police academy killed seven police and two civilians, holding security forces at bay for about eight hours before being overpowered by Pakistani commandos. Some of the attackers wore police uniforms, and they took hostages and tossed grenades during the assault. …

The Pakistani Taliban has links with al-Qaida and Afghan Taliban militants who have launched attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from a base in the border region between the two countries. …

Caught on TV

Monday’s highly coordinated attack highlighted that militants in the country pose a threat far outside the border region. It prompted Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s top civilian security official, to say that militant groups were “destabilizing the country.”

After gunmen stormed the academy, masses of security forces surrounded the compound, exchanging fire in televised scenes reminiscent of the militant siege in the Indian city of Mumbai in November and the attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team [link added: 3/26/2017 update]. …


4/1/2009 Update

U.S. looks at Pakistani Taliban threat on Washington (Reuters, Apr. 1, 2009) — U.S. officials are studying whether a Pakistani Taliban leader blamed for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto poses a credible threat to the United States, a top U.S. military official said on Wednesday. … Full story

Suspected U.S. missile strike kills 12 (AP, Apr. 1, 2010) — A suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles Wednesday at an alleged hide-out connected to a Taliban leader who has threatened to attack Washington, killing 12 people and wounding several others, officials said. … Full story

Bombs rip through Afghan government office (AP, Apr. 1, 2010) – Three Taliban suicide bombers disguised in army uniforms stormed a government office in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday after a fourth detonated a car bomb, officials said. At least 17 people — including the four assailants — died. … The coordinated assault in Kandahar underscored a new tactic by Afghan militants to launch multidirectional attacks against government offices. It mirrored a February attack in Kabul, where militants assaulted three government buildings simultaneously, killing 20. … Full story


British Troops Begin Iraq Pullout

Image: Handover ceremony of a British military base at Basra
British and U.S. soldiers attend the handover ceremony of a British military base at Basra airport to U.S. forces on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Haider al-Assadee / EPA)

March 31, 2009

BAGHDAD — Britain turned over coalition command of the oil-rich south to the United States on Tuesday in the first step toward withdrawing virtually all British troops by July.

The pomp-filled ceremony marked the beginning of the end of an often-troubled British mission. The Iraqis have accused the British of merely standing by while Shiite militias wielded control of the country’s second-largest city of Basra for years.

However, U.S. and Iraqi commanders had nothing but praise Tuesday for Britain’s role as the second-largest contributor of troops since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. …

The British troops will be withdrawn in phases, with combat operations to finish at the end of May and all but about 400 troops withdrawn by the end of July. …

The Iraq war has been extremely unpopular in Britain, and the issue shadowed the final years of Tony Blair’s premiership.

At the height of combat operations in March and April 2003, Britain had 46,000 troops in Iraq. The British military has suffered 179 deaths since the war started. …


Security Developments in Iraq

Residents grieve over the body of a relative near a U.S. soldier standing guard outside a morgue in Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, on March 30, 2009. A bomb attached to a bicycle killed three laborers and wounded eight others in Iraq’s volatile northern province of Diyala, police said. (Photo credit: Reuters / Helmiy al-Azawi)

Following are security developments in Iraq on Tuesday, March 31, as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – A Sunni Arab official who looks after mosques was killed by a bomb planted under his car in northern Baghdad’s Adhamiya district, police said.

MOSUL – Attackers wounded three civilians when they hurled a hand grenade at a U.S. military patrol in central Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – Seven people were killed, including four police officers, and 40 others wounded when a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden truck into the compound of a police station in Mosul, north of Baghdad, police said.

FALLUJA – A sticky bomb attached to a car wounded three police officers in the city of Falluja, 35 miles west of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A mortar round wounded three people in the Zaafaraniya district of southeastern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A mortar round wounded two people in eastern Baghdad, police said.

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