Mainland target after army's tribal victory

Nov 30, -0001
Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: The army’s success in Pakistan's tribal areas or FATA meant that the terrorists and banned organisations decided to hit the mainland, said Advisor Rehman Malik to the media.

"We need the same kind of unity that we demonstrated in 1965," he said, adding that investigations were underway and they were very close to the bottom of the attack on the Sri Lankan team, which was staged in a similar way on March 3.

Malik added that 95 policemen and two civilians were injured, three terrorists blew themselves up, one suicide bomber’s jacket and sophisticated arms have been recovered. One gunman has been arrested alive. “There are two suspects we are evaulating,” he said to the media. “We have ordered that no one from the hospital is released.”

This was an attempt to portray Pakistan as a weak state, he said later, adding that a porous border with Afghanistan and the influx of sophisticated weaponry were a major problem. However, the government was working on giving all law-enforcement agencies the best resources to fight the enemy.

He congratulated the forces on their work. “I salute [the forces],” said Malik. “I commend the work done. This was a very well coordinated operation. Minimum loss has taken place.” He said he was indebted to the army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani who dispatched helicopters in minutes and the other members of the various law-enforcement agencies who responded likewise.

He said that he had warned parliamentarians on the floor of the house that incidents were in the offing. He said that he had given the warning around the time of the Long March.

Army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said four gunmen had been killed. “No one from the combined operation force,” he said while answering a question on if there were any causalties aside from those of the cadets.

On Monday morning, 12 to 15 gunmen attacked the Manawan police training centre in Lahore with hand grenades.

Malik has formed a joint investigation team and told it to submit a report in three days. Officials from the spy agencies, Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau and members of the Lahore CID police are part of the team.

Pakistani security forces overpowered the group of gunmen, capturing some of the militants while at least four others died during the six-hour long battle.

The well-organized, highly coordinated assault left at least 22 officers dead, though the death toll was expected to rise because some of the bodies were inside the compound.

The attack came less than a month after an ambush on Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team in the heart of Lahore and underscored the threat that militancy poses to the U.S.-allied, nuclear-armed country. It prompted the country's top civilian security official to say that militant groups were "destabilizing the country."

Soldiers and other security forces surrounded the compound on the outskirts of the city, exchanging fire in televised scenes reminiscent of last November's militant siege of the Indian city of Mumbai. Armored vehicles entered the compound while helicopters hovered overhead. Some police tried to escape by crawling on their hands and knees around the bodies of fallen officers.

Security forces including the army battled the gunmen for around six hours. They managed to corner several on the top floor of a building on the compound, where the gunmen were holding some 35 hostages, said Rao Iftikhar, a top government official in Punjab province, of which Lahore is capital.

Iftikhar confirmed that six of the militants were arrested. Of the eight dead, two blew themselves up, he said.

Iftikhar said he will provide a more exact death toll from the brazen assault later Monday.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. SAMAA




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