Terror assault team targets police and intelligence officials in Lahore


Islamic terrorists conducted a deadly complex attack in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Twenty-three people are reported to have been killed and more than 300 were wounded in a combined armed assault and suicide strike that targeted an emergency police and an intelligence headquarters in the heart of the city.

The attack took place in a high security zone that houses government buildings. A team armed with assault rifles, machine guns, and hand grenades crashed their van through security barriers near the Lahore emergency police headquarters and a headquarters building for Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency, dismounted between the buildings, and opened fire on security guards.

The van, which was rigged with several hundreds of pounds of explosives, was detonated after security guards returned fire. The blast leveled a building used by rescue units and damaged the police and ISI buildings.

According to reports, one or more gunmen entered the ISI building and firefights lasted for nearly one hour. Pakistani troops are reported to have entered the ISI building to battle the terrorists.

The assault took a heavy toll on the police and the ISI. Sixteen policemen and seven intelligence officials were killed in the explosion and gun battles. Three of the attackers were captured and the rest were killed.

Lahore's police chief claimed he was the target of the terrorist attack, however eyewitness accounts indicate the ISI building was the target of the strike.

"As some people came out from that vehicle and starting firing at the ISI office, the guards from inside that building returned fire," Sajjad Bhutta, a senior government official in Lahore said.

The Lahore attack occurred as the military is on the offensive against the Taliban in Swat, Dir, Buner, and Shangla in the insurgency-plagued Northwest Frontier Province. The Army claimed much of Swat and Buner have been cleared of the Taliban as fighting is underway in Swat's main town of Mingora.

Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Swat Taliban, has ordered fighters in Mingora not to resist the military while Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the pro-Taliban group that negotiated the latest peace agreement in the region, is calling for a resumption of the ceasefire that allowed for the implementation of Islamic law.

Third complex attack in Lahore this year

Today's strike is the third complex attack in the capital of Punjab province since February of this year and is the latest in a series of military-styled terror assaults that have been launched by the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other allied terror groups. These groups have conducted similar strikes in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen [see LWJ report, Taliban launches complex assault in Haqqani country, for a list of recent complex attacks in Afghanistan].

The last such attack took place in Lahore on March 30, when a terrorist assault team, estimated in size at 14 men, launched a coordinated attack on the Manawan Police Training School. More than 30 police recruits and officers were killed and 90 more were wounded during the 8-hour siege. The terrorists used infantry squad tactics combined with suicide vests.

Baituallah Mehsud, the South Waziristan-based commander of the Pakistani Taliban, took credit for the strike and said it was carried out to avenge the Pakistan-backed US Predator airstrikes in the tribal regions that are targeting al Qaeda and Taliban networks.

On March 3, a terrorist strike team estimated at about 12 men ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team as it traveled to a sports stadium in Lahore. Five policemen and two civilians were killed, and dozens were wounded, including some cricket officials. The attack caused the international cricket association to cancel matches in Pakistan.

The Lashkar-e-Taiba is the likely culprit in today's attack, and it may have conducted the strike with elements of the Jaish-e-Mohammed as it did in the December 2001 assault on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi.

The banned group continues to operate in Pakistan as the government has only made token efforts to crack down on the group. Over the weekend, several senior members of the group behind the Mumbai assault were released from police custody. Among those released were Hamir Hamza, an operational planner of the Mumbai attack, and Abdul Rehman, the chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba's communications branch.

The Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a host of Pakistani jihadi terror groups have joined forces to battle both the Pakistani military in the Northwest Frontier Province and the NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda has revived its paramilitary army, formerly known as the 055 Brigade and now known as the Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army'].

The Shadow Army contains fighters from each of these terror groups, and trains in camps in the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas, as well as in Afghanistan [see LWJ reports Al Qaeda Shadow Army camps located in northern Helmand and Al Qaeda's Shadow Army commander outlines Afghan strategy].

In the past, al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri and spokesman and ideologue Abu Yahya al Libi have advocated for Pakistanis to revolt against the state and overthrow the government. The al Qaeda leaders have also urged the military to turn on the government and join the jihad.


Information in this report was compiled from reports at The Nation, Dawn, and Geo News.



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READER COMMENTS: "Terror assault team targets police and intelligence officials in Lahore"

Posted by Lorenz Gude at May 27, 2009 10:05 AM ET:

One of the good things about fighting fanatics is that they do extreme, unbalanced things. Like the way al Qaeda treated the people of Anbar province in Iraq. Attacking the ISI seems like a good way of changing the basic situation in Pakistan where the ISI has been a prime supporter the Taliban and al Qaeda. I think it is called 'biting the had that feed you'.

Posted by plainslow at May 27, 2009 10:50 AM ET:

Lorenz beat me to the point. I consider this a possibly good thing, in the long run.

Posted by Neo at May 27, 2009 12:57 PM ET:

It's called biting the hand that feeds you.

Hopefully some of the funding coming out of the ISI dries up. On the other hand there is so much unaccounted for money seeping out of Pakistani coffers that the Taliban will still get their share perhaps through deeper back channels.

This may also have the effect of turning more of the ISI against the Taliban, or more likely those who might have been willing to do favors and footwork for the Islamists might be more inclined to pass on it and keep their heads down. The hard core supporters are still going to do their thing and I doubt if anyone yet has enough leverage to stop them.

Before anyone objects, I am aware that the Taliban has multiple other sources of funding.

Posted by Spooky at May 27, 2009 2:35 PM ET:

I actually think this was a hit called by the renegade ISI against those who support the government. Likely will have the negative effect of sending any unsure ISI officials into the government's camp, which is good for everone else, but I doubt it will effect the current level of funding they are getting.

Posted by Xavier at May 27, 2009 2:43 PM ET:

Actually I find it interesting that not many Pakistanis even suspect ISI of providing Taliban with $. Hamid Gul, former ISI Chief openly supports Taliban and says that Pakistan should oppose or even fight US.

I refuse to believe that he no longer has connections in the ISI. In intelligence not all the money is accounted for due to secrecy. It does not take a genius to figure out the source of support for Taliban.

Of course opium is the other source.

Posted by Saaq at May 27, 2009 4:41 PM ET:

I don't buy that. Would you really think that they would "bite the hand that feed them", people with that kind of mentality don't last for too long but the extremist do, which by the way I think doesn't feed them. I think for the most part extremist get there finances from locals, sympathizers around the world channels through back doors.

Or may be the bad ISI which feed them is still with them and the good ISI is the target. May ISI is at war within for control.

I think If 0.5 %( extremist) of 1.4 billion finance $100 an year that is $700M an year. Is that right!!

Posted by Midnight at May 27, 2009 5:38 PM ET:

It's 100% pure Muslim. That you can count on. It isn't unique, a very large part of ISI left to join the Taliban, it wasn't over money, even if the money turned Talib way. One still has to draw a line somewhere and decide which part of the government dislikes the USA the most. In an interesting turn of events the courts have opened an avenue for Sharif to reenter the arena. I personally like the idea.

You know, the biting the hand that feeds you scenario may not fit this situation however. Hypothetically speaking, there is an old wives tale about playing with fire one too many times. Fire like bugs bites back.

Posted by Shimron Issachar at May 27, 2009 7:02 PM ET:

This may be a frustration attack. Their intell about Govermnet Ops was poor or uninformed, perhaps even deceptive.

perhaps someone fed ISI bad data and set them up to send a bad analysis out...

Posted by MZBH at May 27, 2009 11:30 PM ET:

"Hopefully some of the funding coming out of the ISI dries up. On the other hand there is so much unaccounted for money seeping out of Pakistani coffers that the Taliban will still get their share perhaps through deeper back channels."

What nonsense - this is up there with the Pakistanis claiming the CIA is funding the TTP against the Pakistani state, and we know the CIA really has much deeper coffers.

There is zilcj in terms of evidence that the ISI is supporting the Taliban. Those calling the ISI some sort of rogue agency have no clue as to how it functions - don't confuse the ISI with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The ISI does not have the systems and autonomy to function independently of either the Army or the GoP.

Pure drivel pushed by Western 'analysts'.

Posted by Joe at May 27, 2009 11:35 PM ET:

looks at the outset to be either a factional ISI thing or reprisals against an ISI actually doing what its paid to.
LOL or an outside-funded effort to sow division between ISI and Talib....

Or maybe even an ISI inner-circle plot to prove that the ISI is fighting too...

Question that distinguishes between the first two at least is who called the hit? No, not who wants to claim it was them, who called it....

Posted by Xavier at May 27, 2009 11:51 PM ET:

MZBH says

"There is zilcj in terms of evidence that the ISI is supporting the Taliban. "

You want evidence? I will give you tons of it. Read "Descent into Chaos" by a Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid (He is based in Lahore, not a Western 'Analyst', infact Western analysis have been quite kind in their analyses). These are hundreds of examples of collaboration between Taliban and ISI including funding. His other book "Taliban" also has hundreds of pieces of evidence.

Also read the news today. Apparently the people who attached knew the precise location of ISI HQ and its weak points. According to Miami herald(I guess) an ISI officer(anonymous) spoke to them and said that these people knew because they met ISI officials earlier in the same building. That is how they could get into the building(few militants got in killed 7 ISI agents+ 1 officer). They know the schematic of the building.

"The ISI does not have the systems and autonomy to function independently of either the Army or the GoP."

That is funny. When has ISI ever acted under GoP? Remember after Mumbai attacks GoP had to immediately retract their offer of sending ISI chief to India to help investigations.

Posted by Xavier at May 27, 2009 11:57 PM ET:

MZBH

"There is zilcj in terms of evidence that the ISI is supporting the Taliban."

BTW, I forgot to add that Hamid Gul, former ISI chief openly supported Taliban. The video is on youtube, you can watch that if you want evidence. He also thinks 9/11 was an inside job.

And Hamid Gul also talks about how Osama is innocent. ISI does not just have links with Taliban, it probably has links with AQ as well.

Watch the video where he talks about bin Laden, its on youtube. Apparently he also met bin Laden personally in 1993.

Posted by TLA at May 28, 2009 12:46 AM ET:

Couldn't this be a ruse to make the Western powers and/or media think that the ISI is to be trusted, and on their side.

Posted by Neo at May 28, 2009 1:45 AM ET:

"Or may be the bad ISI which feed them is still with them and the good ISI is the target. May ISI is at war within for control."

Yes, there is a factional political struggle within the ISI specifically and the Pakistani security apparatus in general. It is an unavoidable fact that Pakistan's army and security apparatus is deeply involved in politics. It is also well documented that various extremist groups have had a formal and semi-formal relationships with both the Pakistani security apparatus and civilian administrations over several decades. It is also apparent that the current war has pulled the Pakistani security apparatus into opposed political factions. Had Al Qaeda not internationalized their efforts by picking a fight with the US than things would been different.

When I say "biting the hand that feeds" I'm also not suggesting anything particular about the Lahore office. The extremists decided a number of years back that if they couldn't have Pakistan's undivided support than they would devour the Pakistani state directly. This is just the latest episode.

As for people within the security apparatus and Pakistani's in general, the Taliban originally enjoyed much more support but that has been steadily eroded by the actions of the Taliban.

Posted by Minnor at May 28, 2009 7:23 AM ET:

Pak is now taking fight to the enemy in Swat, and they must go to Waziristan. Unless they find and destroy bomb making facilities, they can't save themselves from car or truck bombs.

Posted by Lahori at May 28, 2009 8:34 AM ET:

Living at the epicenter of terror is not easy. BUt life for Lahoris goes on. If it was not for isi and our army, these talibs would have been defeated by us civilians. Hopefully with Nato in Afghanistan, euation fo talibs is changed forever.

Posted by Neo at May 28, 2009 8:45 AM ET:

"Pak is now taking fight to the enemy in Swat, and they must go to Waziristan. Unless they find and destroy bomb making facilities, they can't save themselves from car or truck bombs"

Eventually they must go to Waziristan. Not quite yet though. The Pakistani Army needs to create more momentum before it takes on Waziristan. Over the next month the fight in Swat and Dir will become more of a low grade Gorilla war. Much of the Taliban from those areas seem to be headed toward Bajaur to regroup. The Pakistani army needs bring in fresh troops and mount an aggressive clearing operation of Bajaur.

I have my doubts about the long term effectiveness of clear and hold operations, but the Pakistani army can definitely knock the Taliban down a notch or two. Once the Pakistani army has a bit of momentum would be the time to start hitting the area around Waziristan hard. Go after their support structure.

Posted by MZBH at May 28, 2009 3:39 PM ET:

"You want evidence? I will give you tons of it. Read "Descent into Chaos" by a Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid"

Hofwash and just more obfuscation - the 'evidence' you are pointing to is primarily related to Pakistan's support of the Taliban as a faction in the Afghan civil war post Soviet withdrawal. I have no apologies for that - given the alternatives and environment in Afghanistan, the decision was the best at the time in pursuit of stabilizing the region and securing Pakistan's national interests and security.

There is no evidence that either the ISI or PA provided any tangible support (intelligence or material) as part of an institutional policy after the Musharraf decision to part ways.

The repeated purges in the ISI, continued under gen. Kiyani, both when he was DG ISI and after he became COAS left very little room for even rogues to operate except in a very limited capacity.

A month or so ago Gen. Petraeus himself stated in an interview to Fox News, in response to a question about ISI support, that they only have ONE 'unambiguous case' of someone in the Pakistani security establishment tipping off the Taliban about a raid. That raid was also carried out by the Pakistanis.

That is it for your so called 'evidence'. NADA, nothing , Zilch - your own generals are lying now.

Posted by dude40000 at May 28, 2009 5:28 PM ET:

MZBH - Denying ISI links with Taliban is a widespread phenomena in Taliban - just as majority of Pakistanis are in denial about the threat of Taliban. Look at this survey carried out by IRI in Pakistan.

The International Republican Institute's public opinion survey, of a "national representative sample of adult residents in Pakistan", conducted between March 7-30, 2009.

http://www.iri.org/newsreleases/pdfs/2009%20May%2011%20Survey%20of%20Pa kistan%20Public%20Opinion,%20March%207-30,%202009.pdf

The survey suggests that (before the Pakistani army began its offensive against the Taliban in the Malakand region in late April) almost two-thirds of the respondents (72%) supported striking peace deals with the Taliban knowing that such deals with strengthen the Taliban movement. 80% of the respondents supported the government's deal with the Taliban. That's not all, 56% the respondents replied in the affirmative when asked if they would support a Taliban support for sharia in other parts of the country, like Karachi, Multan, Quetta or Lahore. Support for the Lashkar-e-Taiba is strong, with 43% viewing it favourably, (46% unfavourably, and 12% didn't know/didn't respond).

Sure, surveys are inexact and things might have changed in the last two months, but they suggest that the risk of Talibanisation is not insignificant. Also, if you quantify the numbers - that's 86 million people supporting Swat type peace deals.

Posted by Darkness at May 28, 2009 6:02 PM ET:

http://ekawaaz.wordpress.com/2006/10/08/pakistani-intelligence-service-isi-training-taliban-fighters/

http://www.janes.com/security/international_security/news/misc/janes011001_1_n.shtml

http://coincentral.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/us-intel-spying-on-isi-taliban-communications/

Now why would any civilized human being expect veracity from somebody who uses the Jew hating, Holocaust denying PakDef forum as their URL?

Posted by Mr T at May 28, 2009 8:26 PM ET:

"NADA, nothing , Zilch "

I thought you said Petraus said there was one?

Posted by NS at May 28, 2009 10:55 PM ET:

MZBH,
If you want to perpetuate the myth of the angelic ISI, its up to you - dont ask people with common sense, and knowledge of the ISI or knowledge of the geo politics of the region (Pakis using Taliban as strategic depth against India) to share your dreams of LaLa Land.

Refute this: Hamid Gul's direct support of the Taliban and Al Qaeda - we are talking about a former chief of the ISI here.

Refute this : the ISI planned and executed terrorist attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul last summer.

The US has intel regarding this issue.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/world/asia/01pstan.html

Refute this: General Kayani called Siraj Haqqani a strategic asset

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25070151-2703,00.html

oh by the way, refute David Sanger's book as well

Living in denial of your ISI is probably the best that you can come up with rather than facts, arguments and coherent explanations as to how a supposed rag tag team of terrorists could attack the ISI out of the blue.

Either you are in denial or you are wilfully trying to cover up for the ISI - at this point, frankly I dont know which is worse.

Posted by Xavier at May 29, 2009 8:56 AM ET:

NS,

MZBH probably know all these quite well. But may be it does not suit his/her interests admitting it.

and Darkness, anti-semitism is like oxygen for some people and their defense forces, Omar Saeed was protected by the ISI after he killed Daniel Pearl. He also sent $100,000 to Moh Atta a 9/11 hijacker. US could not do anything to this guy coz of ISI protection.

Also look at Pak military site's claims about outcome of 1965, 1971, 1999 wars and compare it with and generally accepted version say wikipedia. They do live in their own little world.