Aftermath of the suicide balst in Rawalpindi. Reuters photo. Click to view.
As the Pakistani government has negotiated another cease-fire with the Taliban in the settled district of Swat in the Northwest Frontier Province, the terrorists conducted another suicide strike in the heart of President Pervez Musharraf’s seat of power. A suicide bomber detonated his vest outside of the Pakistani army headquarters in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi. Seven were killed, including two police officers, and another 14 were reported wounded in the strike.
The suicide bomber struck as Musharraf was conducting talks with his senior leaders. “The blast happened at a police checkpost a less than a kilometre (half a mile) from where Musharraf was holding talks with top government officials about a spate of attacks, including a recent bid to kill Benazir Bhutto,” AFP reported.
The attack was confirmed as a suicide bombing, as his head of the bomber was recovered at the scene. Two senior Pakistani government officials are downplaying the attack as an attempt on Musharraf and other Pakistani political and military leaders.
“It was a suicide attack. The area is sensitive — we don’t know what the exact target was,” said Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid. “It appears to be an attack targeting police,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Cheema.
The chief of police for Rawalpindi said otherwise. “He wanted to get past our security cordon but we were successful in stopping him,” said Saud Aziz. “We were alert and we will remain alert.”
This is the third attack against military and political leaders in the garrison city of Rawalpindi since July. On July 6, an unidentified group attempted to shoot down Musharraf’s airplane as it left the airport at Rawalpindi. Musharraf was traveling with senior military and political leaders.
On September 6, a two pronged suicide attack in Rawalpindi killed at least 26 and wounded over 70. The bombers targeted a bazaar and a bus carrying intelligence agents.
The Pakistani government is half-heartedly fighting an insurgency against the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. The Taliban fought the military to a standstill in North Waziristan in October, and appears to have done so against in Swat. Pakistan’s fallback position has been to negotiate peace deals which cede territory to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Over 29 terror training camps are open in North and South Waziristan alone.
While the government was quick to tout the losses of 50 to 60 Taliban fighters of Swat’s radical cleric Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, it failed to note that it lost at least 47 of its own soldiers and policemen during four days of fighting.