Pakistan bomber targets Islamabad protectors

5 04 2009

Karachi News.Net
Saturday 4th April, 2009

A lone suicide bomber in Pakistan has targeted the residential camp of a group of paramilitary forces.

The forces, which were put in place to guard the capital, Islamabad, were attacked in an area of the city which houses foreign missions and the homes of Pakistani officials.

The suicide bomber attacked after dark, when the soldiers were preparing to eat.

He entered one of the canvas tents that serve as soldiers barracks and detonated his explosives.

Officials had earlier received intelligence about a general threat against the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, but were unable to pinpoint the potential incident.

The bombing is latest in a series of attacks against security forces in recent weeks.

More than 20 people, including nine paramilitary troopers, were killed in two sucide bombings in Pakistan Saturday, officials said.

At least six members of Pakistan’s paramilitary, the Frontier Corps (FC), were killed and four others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a check post in Islamabad when the soldiers were having dinner, Senior Superintendent of Police Tahir Alam said.

The blast occurred in the upmarket residential area of F-7/3 near the Jinnah Supermarket, nearly four kilometres from President Asif Zardari’s office.

Deputy Inspector General Bin Yamin told reporters at the blast site that at least six security personnel were killed and 11 were injured.

TV channels said the blast was followed by loud gun shots and there was an exchange of fire between security forces and militants. One report said some attackers had taken shelter in one of the houses of the F7 neighbourhood, one of Islamabad’s upscale areas.

A TV report said at least eight attackers were holed up in the area.

However, Alam denied any exchange of fire, saying the security men fired in the air to scare away any other attackers. He said no militant was holed up.

Alam told a TV channel that body parts of the suicide bomber were found at the site.

Alam said one attacker was arrested. ‘We have one suspect in our custody. His interrogation is on,’ he said.

Separately, another suicide bombing Saturday on the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan, killed at least 17 people, including five children.

Over 40 people, including six Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers, were also injured in the attack which targeted security officials at a check post in the town, the Online news agency repoted. One soldier died later in the hospital.

Security forces took retaliatory measures and have cordoned off the entire area. The Miranshah Bazaar was also closed, the report said.

President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the terrorist attacks and vowed that his government would root out terrorism.

‘Such acts cannot deter the government’s determination to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,’ he said.

Violence in Pakistan has surged in recent months with a wave of attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

The latest attacks come five days after the March 30 terror assault on the Manawan police academy on Lahore’s outskirts when heavily armed militants held over 400 trainees hostage for over eight hours before Pakistani security forces recaptured the complex.

At least 18 people, including two civilians, eight policemen and eight militants, were killed and 95 injured in the terror attack owned up by Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Mehsud vowed in a telephone interview with reporters early this week to carry out an attack in Islamabad, as well as in the US, in retaliation for American missile strikes by Predator drone aircraft in the Pashtun ethnic belt of western Pakistan, near the Afghan border.

Last month, eight people, including policemen, were killed and several were injured when terrorists ambushed Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore.

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Comment: Terrorism Isn’t Just Destroying Cricket In Pakistan

14 03 2009
Source: goal.com

In the wake of the recent Lahore attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers, Muhammed Wasim looks at the problems that Pakistani football is experiencing due to security concerns and terrorism.

14-Mar-2009 5:29:24 AM

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The terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan shocked the global sports community.

Football’s governing body FIFA called a special ‘crisis evaluation committee’ meeting with the South African 2010 organizers to upgrade or further beef up the security plans for the world’s biggest sporting events.

Safety measures for the 2010 World Cup will be reviewed again and again to make the venues hotels and cities more secure. Football has the greatest global appeal among all sports and therefore is the most probable target of terrorists.

As the sports become ever more popular, it is natural that terrorists – in whatever shape and form — would look to use that global interest. The tragedy of Munich Olympics in 1972 showed what kind of global platform terrorists could have to disseminate their power and demands.

In recent times, security obviously comes at the top of the list of priorities when any sporting event is planned. However, it is also a fact that countries where the law and order situation is fragile are more prone to terrorist attacks.

The Indian subcontinent has been facing problems of militancy and terrorism for more than a decade. However, the situation now is more alarming than ever before.

The sports community of the developed world has lately come to realize that the perpetrators of terrorism have no boundaries. They are not only nameless and faceless, but stateless too. They don’t want themselves to be confined to one particular region as the main objective before them is to terrorize people as much as possible.

Therefore games and sports, particularly those with global appeal, are obvious terrorist targets, as such attacks will earn them maximum attention.

At the moment, sporting activities are heavily destabilized in the subcontinent region. Within hours of the attack in Pakistan, the Bangladesh Cricket Association postponed a home series against Pakistan. The fate of the highly-publicized cricket competition, the Indian Premier League, is also undecided. Whatever happens, it’s a fact that sports fans will suffer more and more if nothing is done to ensure the safety of sports activities in the region.

As far as football is concerned in Pakistan, the situation is even worse. I have previously written about how religious militancy and ethnic parochialism has affected the game in the country.

Football used to be forbidden in some areas because of the ‘irreligious’ dress code of the game. In extreme cases, footballers have been tortured in the past and have died in terrorist attacks and in routine gang wars in Karachi.

It is another irony that as football is the game of poor masses in Pakistan, the teams and players are given the lowest priority in terms of security. Bartalan Bisciki, the noted Hungarian football coach, was selected last month by the Pakistan football association to coach the national team, but he refused to take up the job. He cited security fear in the country.

Domestic football events in the country are also suffering. Last week a Punjabi-based football club refused to play the semi-final of the PFF Club League in the war-affected province of Baluchistan. During the Pakistan Premier League, Pakistan Army FC’s match at Afghan FC was also shifted from Baluchistan, which deprived the Afghans of their home advantage.

These are tough times for Pakistan football. People must all be vigilant for the sake of the game they love.

Muhammed Wasim





Andrew Buncombe: Well-trained, motivated and on the rise. But who are these militants?

5 03 2009

Source: The independent

The images are nothing short of terrifying. A dozen well-trained, well-armed men fanning out and taking up their positions with consummate ease and expertise. Nothing could be more different than the grainy CCTV footage of a single truck lurching up to the gate of a five-star hotel and its driver arguing with the security guards and, five minutes later, a massive bomb exploding.

Last night, as Pakistani police continued what increasingly seemed a hapless hunt for the perpetrators of the Lahore attack, a consensus was gathering that the ambush represented the emergence of a new and distressing terror threat for South Asia.

It is not that militant attacks are anything new for Pakistan. Since the summer of 2007, the country has been beset by about 120 suicide bomb attacks on police and civilian targets. But almost without exception, they have been largely crude, hit-or-miss strikes that depended on one or two attackers delivering a truck or car bomb. Tuesday’s highly-mobile, commando-style militants armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons and who slipped away when they realised their objective was not obtainable, appeared anything but crude.

“These were definitely different tactics. They were like commandos and they were very clearly not on a suicide mission,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based analyst and author. “They had a particular intention – to either kidnap or attack the Sri Lankan team – but when they were not able to do that they fled and have not been seen.”

Many have likened the Lahore attacks to those in Mumbai last November when a similar number of well-trained, well-armed militants held off Indian counter-terrorism commandos for more than 60 hours. Those attacks were blamed by India and others on the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). It is too early to say whether the LeT was responsible for the Lahore attack and experts point out that, in its 20-year existence, the LeT has never attacked a target inside Pakistan. But clearly something very serious is happening in Pakistan; someone, somewhere is training groups of well-equipped, highly motivated militants who have the wherewithal and skills to challenge even the best of the region’s counter-terrorism forces. It raises all manner of questions; where are they being trained, who is supplying them with arms, who is supplying them with intelligence, why are the intelligence agencies such as Pakistan’s notorious ISI not aware of this group? More sinisterly, many will ask, are elements in the ISI linked to these militants.

Diving into the alphabet soup of potential suspects for Tuesday’s attack may be a futile task. Bahukutumbi Raman, an Indian security analyst and former intelligence official, said he believed a number of Pakistan-based militant groups had the potential to carry out that style of attack. They include the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), an offshoot of the HUM, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia organisation, and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI).

Writing on his website, he adds: “Al-Qa’ida and the [Pakistan Taliban] have carried out a number of suicide bombings through individual suicide bombers and vehicle-borne bombers in many towns including Lahore but they have not so far carried out a frontal urban ambush … Since its formation in 1989, [the LeT] has never carried out any act of terrorism in Pakistani territory, against Pakistani or foreign nationals. All its acts of terrorism have been either in Indian or Afghan territory.”

Mr Raman says the HUM once had operational ties with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the Sri Lankan rebel group.

The incident has also forced a rethink of what constitutes a target. Until this point, sportsmen and woman were believed to be largely insulated from the region’s extremism. But if cricketers are now considered fair game, it means, in effect, that no one is safe.

Asked how Pakistan can defend itself against this new threat, Talat Masood, a former Pakistani general, said: “You have to have a lot of good intelligence, the support of your people and a better police. You also have to have good governance, rather than growing opposition to everything that is happening.”





Police left us like sitting ducks, says referee

5 03 2009

Chris Broad, the ex-England batsman turned match referee who escaped injury in Tuesday’s attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers, castigated Pakistan yesterday for not providing the promised “presidential-style security” and accused the security services of fleeing the scene and leaving the visitors as “sitting ducks”.

As Pakistani police began investigating whether the gunmen were planning to take the whole squad hostage, Broad arrived at Manchester airport with scathing remarks about the way Pakistani police had handled the attack.

“After the incident there was not a sign of a policeman anywhere,” said Broad. “They had clearly gone, left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks. I am extremely angry that we were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished and we were left open to anything that the terrorists wanted.

“Questions need to be asked of Pakistan security. At every junction there are police with handguns controlling traffic, so how did the terrorists come to the roundabout and these guys do nothing about it?”

Sri Lanka’s team captain, Mahela Jayawardene, appeared to side with Broad, saying that the gunmen fought a one-sided battle. “They were not under pressure … nobody was firing at them,” he said.

But Pakistani officials were aghast at the suggestion. Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan cricket board chief, said: “How can Chris Broad say this when six policemen were killed?”

The assailants were carrying enough arms, ammunition, food and medical supplies to hold out for a prolonged period, perhaps several days. Pakistani police believe they could have been planning to board the bus and then put on the suicide vests that some were carrying, which would have enabled them to hold the entire team captive.

It may just have been the quick wits of the driver, who managed to speed the bus away, that averted a dramatic hostage situation. “From the inventory we have recovered, it seems they did not just mean to ambush the cavalcade,” said Mushtaq Sukhera, the head of the investigations department of the Lahore police force, in an interview with the Guardian. “It all suggests that they had planned something else, otherwise why were they carrying all these things?”

Sukhera would not speculate on the hostage plan, but other police officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said taking the bus seemed the most likely.

A huge quantity of firearms, grenades and other equipment was recovered from rucksacks dumped by the attackers, and from an abandoned car. There were also rocket-propelled grenade launchers, meaning that the terrorists were at least as heavily armed as the men who attacked Mumbai for three days in November.

The assailants carried significant quantities of food, bandages and antiseptic liquid. Each of the gunmen wore a bulky rucksack. Sukhera said each rucksack contained half a kilo of almonds, half a kilo of dried fruit, biscuits and water bottles, enough to keep them going for days.

Police yesterday made sweeping arrests, detaining some 50 people, though reports suggested none were the gunmen involved and they had only vague connections to the incident.

Sketches of four of the attackers were issued by the police. CCTV footage emerged showing how calmly the gunmen left the scene. The images showed the terrorists strolling through a nearby market after the attack, machine guns still in hand. The authorities for the first time admitted security lapses yesterday. The top official in the Lahore administration, Khusro Pervaiz, said the “security gaps are very vivid, very clear”. He said the outer cordon of the Sri Lankan team’s police escort was missing or did not respond. He also said the vehicles being used by the escort were inappropriate.





Lahore ‘Cricket’ attack may mark a shift in Pakistan

4 03 2009

Source: Asia Times

By Syed Saleem Shahzad, March 04, 2009.

KARACHI – Pakistan might recently have signed peace deals with militants in its tribal areas, including with vehement anti-establishment Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but militants on Tuesday staged a brazen attack in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province and the second-largest city in the country.

The attack by 12 heavily armed gunmen on a convoy escorted by police transporting Sri Lankan cricketers to a match against Pakistan has set off alarm bells in the capital Islamabad that militants are now taking their battle into major urban centres.

At least five people died and six of the cricketers were injured in a 25-minute battle in which militants wearing backpacks and carrying AK-47s, rockets and grenades fought police. The assailants then all fled. The Sri Lankan cricketers have called off their tour and are heading home immediately.

The attack bore some similarity to that of 10 well-armed gunmen, also with backpacks, who rampaged through Mumbai in India last November, killing 140 people. They were later found to have connections to the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“This was a planned terrorist attack. They had heavy weapons,” Salman Taseer, who heads the provincial government as governor of Punjab, was reported as saying. “These were the same methods and the same sort of people as hit Mumbai.”

Numerous Pakistani analysts have been quick to point a finger at India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for staging what they say is a tit-for-tat attack on Tuesday, although there is been no official announcement in this connection.

A press attache at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Islamabad thought it highly unlikely that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who a waging a bloody separatist war in Sri Lanka, had anything to do with Tuesday’s events.

Rather, judging by what was shown on Pakistani television, the attack is the hallmark of those that were waged by militants (many of them Punjabi) against Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir up until a few years ago. They were trained by the Indian cell of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

In 2005-06, these militants joined forces with the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan resistance after Pakistan closed down their training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a move that changed the dynamics of the war theater in the region. Beside the Mumbai attack, Tuesday’s assault was similar to the storming of the Serena Hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul in January 2008 and the unsuccessful July 2008 attack on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. In all of these incidents, the attackers abandoned their weapons and quickly melted into a thickly populated area of the city where, apparently, they were whisked away by waiting colleagues.

Retired Lieutenant General Hamid Nawaz, a former interim minister the Interior and a close aide of former president General Pervez Musharraf, commented to Asia Times Online, “This proves that striking peace deals [with militants] will not serve any purpose and there is a need to handle them with iron hands. I blame the government for negligence.

“Providing a single elite police commando bus was not enough. They should have been provided VIP [very important people] security like the state provides for governors and chief ministers. Traffic should have been blocked on their route,” Nawaz said.

Former Pakistani cricketer Zaheer Abbas said, “I am not a politician to comment on who was behind it, but it has damaged Pakistani cricket very badly. I don’t understand why anybody would target Sri Lankans because they don’t have any role in the region. There might be some forces who want to damage the cause of Pakistan and Pakistani cricket.”

Possible attackers

Pakistani analysts, including retired General Hamid Gul, who is a former head of the ISI, blame India’s RAW.

However, there is no precedence for RAW having the capability to carry out such attacks in Pakistan. Its operations in Pakistan have been of two kinds, according to the records of Pakistani security agencies, documented in files and books narrated by their retired officials:

Small bomb blasts in urban centres.

The use of Indophile political parties such as the Awami League in 1970, the Pashtun sub-nationalist Awami National Party, the Baloch separatist group the Baloch Libration Army and the Muttehida Quami Movement.

However, these parties were always used in a limited political context. For creating a law-and-order situation in the country, RAW has always used bomb blasts and other small-level sabotage activities. It has never had the capacity, like the ISI had in India, to use armed groups to carry out guerrilla activities in Pakistan.

More pertinent is to view Tuesday’s attack in the context of the peace deals in the Swat Valley and the tribal areas which have stopped the fighting between ethnic Pashtun-dominated militants and the Pakistani army.

Prior to the signing of the deals, the matter of the release of militants who did not belong to the Swat area was raised, that is, non-Pashtun militants. These included Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was apprehended while trying to flee the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad in July 2007.

However, after deciding on the level of compensation packages for the families of militants killed or injured by the security forces and other matters related to Swat and the tribal areas, the matter of non-Pashtun militants was deferred and the peace agreements were signed.

In effect, non-Pashtun militants have been ignored and the attack in Lahore could be a bloody message to the government that the “Punjabi militants” have the capacity to cripple urban centres at any time and place of their choosing.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com






Own group blasts Pak’s Indian terrorist myth

29 12 2008

27 Dec 2008, 0122 hrs IST, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: As a Pakistani pro-Taliban group punctured Islamabad’s attempt to pin the Lahore car bomb blast on New Delhi, the Indian government
has pointed the finger of blame at the Pakistani military for manufacturing stories about “Indian terrorists’’, and warned Indian nationals against travelling to Pakistan.

Without naming either the ISI or Pakistani military, the ministry of external affairs has accused agencies “outside civilian control” for the reports in Pakistani media about the arrest of “Indian spies” in Lahore and Multan for the Lahore car bomb blasts. “Since it has also been reported in the Pakistani media on Thursday (Thursday) that the senior police officer in Lahore was unaware of the arrest in his city, it seems that this is the work of other agencies in Pakistan that operate outside the law and civilian control,’’ MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said. The main agency that operates outside the civilian control in Pakistan is the Pakistani military under which falls the ISI.

In this atmosphere, the government fearing the detention of Indian citizens also issued a travel advisory warning Indians against travelling Pakistan. “Indian citizens are therefore advised that it would be unsafe for them to travel or be in Pakistan,” the spokesperson said.

Islamabad’s attempt to manufacture Indian spies was dealt a big blow with a new pro-Taliban group called ‘Ansar Wa Mohajir’ taking credit for Wednesday’s car bomb attack in Lahore.

According to a report in Pakistani newspaper The News, a man identifying himself as Toofan Wazir said he was the commander and spokesman of the ‘Ansar Wa Mohajir’ which was responsible for the blast in Lahore and earlier rocket attacks on Dera Ismail Khan city.

The report said it appeared “obvious that he (Wazir) and his men are pro-Taliban and part of the Pakistani Taliban”. Wazir, who called up the newspaper from somewhere in North Waziristan, further said that the group held the Pakistani government responsible for the attacks by the US drones in North Waziristan in which militants were killed. He said they believed that the Pakistani government was cooperating with the US in its efforts.

This claim by the local group has poured water over attempts by the Pakistani establishment to pin the blame on India. The development further demonstrates that the ungoverned areas in Pakistan continue to be terror hotspots even as the Pakistani military tries to deflect attention from the establishment’s unwillingness and in some cases inability to take action against the terror infrastructure.

As part of the effort to show India as the aggressor, Pakistani intelligence had planted stories in the media saying that an Indian national, who used to work in the Indian High Commission in London, was responsible for the Lahore car bomb blast. The reports were never officially confirmed or denied. And Islamabad also did not take up the matter officially with New Delhi even though reports claimed that visa documents and other papers were seized from the man, who is from Kolkatta. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad was also not told of the so called arrests of Indian spies.

But this latest episode further adds to the assessment that Pakistan, which is in the international spotlight, is reacting under pressure and is unable to come up with a coherent strategy resulting in constant denials and embarrassments. Even the latest diversionary tactic has ended up as a huge embarrassment for Pakistan.