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Oct 15th, 2009

Dozens Die in Wave of Terror Attacks in Pakistan

‘The enemy has started a guerrilla war,’ official says after deadly strikes

Image: Policemen surround the attacked Federal Investigation Agency FIA building
Policemen respond to an attack on the Federal Investigation Agency building in Lahore, Pakistan, Oct. 15, 2009. (Photo credit: Rahat Dar / EPA)

October 15, 2009

LAHORE, Pakistan — Teams of gunmen launched coordinated attacks on three law enforcement facilities in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore and car bombs hit two other cities Thursday, killing a total of 39 people in an escalating wave of anti-government violence.

The bloodshed, aimed at scuttling a planned offensive into the Taliban heartland near the Afghan border, highlights the Islamist militants’ ability to carry out sophisticated strikes on heavily fortified facilities and exposes the failure of the intelligence agencies to adequately infiltrate the extremist cells.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, though suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban who have claimed other recent strikes. The attacks Thursday also were the latest to underscore the growing threat to Punjab, the province next to India where the Taliban are believed to have made inroads and linked up with local insurgent outfits.

President Asif Ali Zardari said the bloodshed that has engulfed the nation over the past 11 days would not deter the government from its mission to eliminate the violent extremists.

“The enemy has started a guerrilla war,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. “The whole nation should be united against these handful of terrorists, and God willing we will defeat them.”


Slide presentation
Image: Attacks in Pakistan
Pakistan rocked
Coordinated strikes by militants kill dozens.

Lahore shut down by attacks

The wave of violence practically shut down daily life in Lahore. All government offices were ordered shut, the roads were nearly empty and major markets were closed.

The assaults began about 9 a.m. when a group of gunmen attacked the Federal Investigation Agency, the national law enforcement body.

The attack lasted about 1 1/2 hours and ended with the death of two assailants, four government employees and a bystander, senior official Sajjad Bhutta said. Police official Chaudhry Shafiq said one of the dead wore a suicide vest.

A second band of gunman then raided a police training school on the outskirts of the city, killing nine police officers, officials said. Police killed one gunmen and the other three blew themselves up.

A Pakistani bomb disposal squad member removes a suicide jacket from the body of an assailant at the Federal Investigation Agency. Five people, including three officers, were killed in this particular attack. (Photo credit: Arif Ali / AFP — Getty Images)

A third team then scaled the back wall of a police commando training center near the airport, Lahore police chief Pervez Rathore said. The attackers stood on the roof of a house, shooting at security forces and throwing grenades, said Lt. Gen. Shafqat Ahmad, the top military officer in Lahore.

Two attackers were slain in the gunbattle and three blew themselves up, he said. A police nursing assistant and a civilian also died, he said.

TV footage showed helicopters in the air over one of the police facilities and paramilitary forces with rifles and bulletproof vests taking cover behind trees outside the compound’s wall.

Taliban, Punjabi militants joining forces

Officials have warned that Taliban fighters close to the border, Punjabi militants spread out across the country and foreign al-Qaida operatives were increasingly joining forces, dramatically increasing the dangers to Pakistan. Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous and powerful province, and the Taliban claimed recently that they were activating cells there and elsewhere in the country for assaults.

An official at the provincial Punjab government’s main intelligence agency said they had precise information about expected attacks on security targets and alerted police this week, but the assailants still managed to strike. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the situation.

Despite their reach and influence, the nation’s feared spy agencies have failed to stop the bloody attacks plaguing the country.

Kamran Bokhari, an analyst with Stratfor, a U.S.-based global intelligence firm, said Pakistan needed to penetrate more militant groups and intercept conversations to prevent attacks, but the task was complicated in a country so big and populous.

“The militants are able to exploit certain things on the ground, like the anti-American sentiment, which is not just in society — it’s also in the military,” he added.

In the Taliban-riddled northwest, meanwhile, a suicide car bomb exploded next to a police station in the Saddar area of Kohat, collapsing half the building and killing 11 people — three police officers and eight civilians — Kohat police chief Abdullah Khan said.

Child, 6, killed in Peshawar

Early Thursday evening, a bomb exploded in a car outside a housing complex for government employees in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing a 6-year-old boy and wounding nine others, most of them women and children, said Liaqat Ali Khan, the top police official in the region. He said an assailant parked the car outside the house and walked away before remotely detonating the bomb.

The U.S. has encouraged Pakistan to take strong action against insurgents who are using its soil as a base for attacks in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are bogged down in an increasingly difficult war. It has carried out a slew of its own missile strikes in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt over the past year, killing several top militants.

One suspected U.S. missile strike killed four people overnight Thursday when it hit a compound in an area in North Waziristan tribal region where members of the militant network led by Jalaluddin Haqqani are believed to operate, two intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Pakistan formally protests the missile strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but many analysts believe it has a secret deal with the U.S. allowing them.

The Taliban have claimed credit for a wave of attacks that began with an Oct. 5 strike on the U.N. food agency in Islamabad and included a siege of the army’s headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi that left 23 people dead.

The Taliban have warned Pakistan to stop pursuing them in military operations.

The Pakistani army has given no time frame for its expected offensive in South Waziristan tribal region, but has reportedly already sent two divisions totaling 28,000 men and blockaded the area.

Fearing the looming offensive, about 200,000 people have fled South Waziristan since August, moving in with relatives or renting homes in the Tank and Dera Ismail Khan areas, a local government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Full story


10/16/09 Update

Trio of Attackers Hit Pakistan Police, Mosque

Image: Scene of suicide bombing in Peshawar
Pakistani officials walk near a wrecked motorcycle at the spot of a suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Friday, Oct. 16, 2009. (Photo credit: Mohammad Sajjad / AP)

NBC News and The Associated Press
October 16, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A trio of suicide attackers, including a rare female bomber, set off two blasts outside a police station in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar on Friday, killing 11 people in the latest bloodshed in an unrelenting wave of terror plaguing the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but suspicion fell on the Taliban, who have been blamed for two weeks of attacks that have killed more than 150 people across the country and appear aimed at forcing the government to abandon a planned offensive into the militants’ stronghold along the Afghan border.

The Friday afternoon attack targeted a heavily fortified police station next to a mosque in the main city in Pakistan’s Taliban-riddled North West Frontier province. A car filled with explosives drove to the main gate of the police station as a motorcycle carrying a man and a woman pulled up behind it, Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said.

The woman jumped off and ran toward a nearby housing complex where army officers live, while the man smashed the motorcycle into the car, which exploded into a huge fireball, he said. Police shot at the woman, who detonated explosives she was wearing.

The impact of the blast destroyed part of the police station and the mosque next to it, he said.

“If that woman suicide bomber had not been killed, she might have caused more damage,” Khan said. …

The blast killed 11 people, including three police officers, two women and two children, Khan said. Another 15 people were wounded, including a criminal suspect who was detained inside the police station at the time of the attack, officials said.

Insurgents have sent attackers wearing military uniforms to bypass security to carry out some of their recent raids. But the use of a female suicide bomber is extremely rare here and could signal a new tactic by the extremists.

In December 2007, what was believed to be the country’s first female bomber blew herself up near a Christian school while apparently aiming for a military post in Peshawar. There were no other casualties.

The newest violence came a day after militants launched coordinated attacks on three law enforcement compounds in the country’s second-largest city of Lahore, killing 19 people as well as the nine attackers. …

“This was a well-coordinated Taliban operation supported by local groups,” Umer Virk, head of the Lahore anti-terrorist police, told The Associated Press.

The violence across the nation has fueled concerns that the Taliban are forging links with other militant groups in the country, an alliance that would vastly increase the threats to the U.S.-allied government. …

In Lahore, retired police officer Mohammad Sadique blamed the U.S. for the problems.

“So long as the American forces are present in Afghanistan, these terrorist attacks in Pakistan will continue,” he said, adding that he condemned the strikes because “no Muslim can kill his own brother or sister.” …

Full story


Related story

Blast Kills Four U.S. Servicemen in Afghanistan

October 16, 2009

KABUL — Four more American troops died in a bombing in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Friday, as a U.N.-backed panel completed most of its investigation into whether the level of fraud in the August presidential election would require a runoff. …

Rising death tolls and the political crisis brought on by a fraud-marred election have prompted the Obama administration to review its entire Afghanistan war strategy.

Two of the U.S. service members were killed instantly in the Thursday blast and two others died of their wounds, the U.S. said in a statement. No further details were released.

The deaths bring to 25 the number of American service members killed in Afghanistan this month, according to an Associated Press count.

Conflicting accounts of gunbattle

Elsewhere, four Afghans, including at least two civilians, died during a firefight Friday between militants and a joint international-Afghan force in Ghazni province. There were conflicting accounts of the gunbattle. …

Ghazni police chief Gen. Khail Buz Sherzai said the dead were all civilians from the same family. A native of Mangor village, Mohammad Sarwar, said the operation began late Thursday when U.S. and Afghan forces raided several houses overnight, blowing apart doors and window with explosives. He also said four civilians were killed in the operation and several were beaten.

Insurgent violence has increased across Afghanistan this year, coinciding with a boost in U.S. military numbers. President Barack Obama is now considering whether to commit still more American troops to the about 65,000 already here.

The White House is considering various options, including a sharp increase in the number of U.S. troops or shifting the focus to missile strikes and special operations raids against al-Qaida members hiding in neighboring Pakistan. …

Full story


12/15/09 Update

Bomb Explodes Near Pakistan Lawmakers Home, Killing 33

Image: A man injured by a bombing
A man injured by a bombing is helped by local residents in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab province, Pakistan, on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009. (Photo credit: Saleem Raza / AP)

December 15, 2009

DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan — A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb in a market close to a politician’s home in central Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 33 people and showing the increasing reach of Taliban militants in the nuclear-armed nation.

The insurgents, who are linked to al-Qaida and militants fighting U.S. and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan, want to topple the U.S.-allied government in Pakistan and install a hard-line Islamist regime.

Under heavy Western pressure, the Pakistani army launched an offensive against the Taliban’s main stronghold in the mountains close to the Afghan border in October. The militants have retaliated with an onslaught of bombings that have killed more than 500 people, most of them civilians.

Tuesday’s attack in the Punjabi town of Dera Ghazi Khan badly damaged the lawmaker’s house and nearby shops and buildings, including a mosque and bank. It was unclear whether the bomber was targeting the home of the politician, who was not there at the time, or the market. …

Rescue official Natiq Hayat said 33 people were killed and 60 wounded. Government official Hasan Iqbal said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. …

Under pressure to crack down

The lawmaker whose home was hit, Zulfiqar Khosa, is a senior member of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, which is in charge of the Punjab government but is in the opposition in the federal government. …

The militants have staged several attacks in Punjab, far beyond the northwestern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Dera Ghazi Khan district is in Punjab but borders the country’s other three provinces. …

Iqbal said he doubted the house was the target, speculating that the attacker simply wanted to spread terror in the town.

Militants have mostly targeted security forces in recent months, but lawmakers and court buildings also have been attacked. There have also been at least three bombs in crowded markets, apparently aimed at causing civilian casualties and undercutting public support for the army offensive.

Petraeus visits

Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus said the United States believes Pakistan’s military has no intention of trying to seize power. In a briefing with Pakistani journalists Tuesday in Islamabad, Petraeus said Pakistan’s military had told him it was not interested in destabilizing the elected civilian government.

“I have seen no indication that (army chief) Gen. Ashfaq Kayani is entertaining such a notion,” local newspapers quoted Petraeus as telling reporters at the U.S. ambassador’s residence when asked about his meeting with Kayani. …

Full story


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — October 15, 2008

After the Primary Election: Day 36

One year ago today, on the 36th day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I reported that the Afghan insurgency had spread beyond traditional Taliban strongholds, with the number of attacks in the country at a six-year high, and recommended Peter Galbraith’s book Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies.

Related: Statement on the Iraq War

4 Responses to “Pakistan Guerrilla War Has Begun”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Obama Missile Strikes Continue Says:

    […] Pakistan Guerrilla War Has Begun […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » AfPak War: Bombers Strike Lahore Says:

    […] In mid-October 2009, three groups of gunmen attacked three security facilities in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore, a rampage that left 28 dead. Twin suicide bombings at a market there in December 2009 killed around 50 people. […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Top al-Qaida Commander Killed Says:

    […] Ilyas Kashmiri has most recently been linked to the 18-hour assault on a naval base in Karachi, in May 2011. He is also accused of masterminding several bloody raids on Pakistan police and intelligence buildings in 2009 and 2010, as well as a failed assassination attempt against then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2003. […]

  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » October 15, 2011 Says:

    […] Pakistan Guerrilla War Has Begun […]

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