A Taliban faction called the Amjad Farooqi Group has claimed responsibility for the military assault on an Army checkpoint outside the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The late morning assault, which was conducted by a squad of terrorists dressed in Pakistani Army camouflage, has resulted in the deaths of six Pakistani Army personnel, including a brigadier general and a lieutenant colonel, and five Taliban fighters.
Between three to four fighters are thought to have escaped the clash and have holed up in a nearby building after taking 15 military personnel hostage. Commandos from Pakistan’s Special Services Group have surrounded the building and are said to be preparing an assault.
“Five terrorists, one of whom was a suicide bomber, were killed in the ensuing gunbattle,” Major General Athar Abbas, the chief military spokesman, told Daily Times. “Three to four accomplices of the terrorists, however, managed to cross over the grassy grounds unnoticed during the shootout.”
The Taliban fighters entered a building outside the Army headquarters and took hostages, but Abbas denied that senior officers were among those taken captive.
“No senior military or intelligence officials are among those being held hostage by the terrorists,” Abbas said. The two senior officers killed were identified as Brigadier Anwar and Lieutenant Colonel Wasim.
The military may launch an assault to free the hostages, perhaps by morning. “We are trying to finish the stand-off as early as possible,” Abbas said, noting that power in the area was shut off.
Security forces have also raided a home in nearby Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, where the Taliban fighters plotted and launched today’s attack. The owner of the home was arrested. It is thought the Taliban fighters lived in the home for three to four months. “Security uniforms, shoes, badges, documents, diaries and detonators have been recovered from the house,” Geo News reported.
Today’s attack is the third major strike in Pakistan this week. On Oct. 5, a suicide bomber killed five UN workers in an attack at the World Food Program office in Islamabad. On Oct. 9, a suicide bomber killed 49 civilians in an attack at a bazaar in Peshawar.
The Amjad Farooqi Group issued demands
The Amjad Farooqi Group has issued a list of demands to the government, a spokesman told a local Pakistani television station.
The Amjad Farooqi Group said the Pakistani government must halt all operations in Pakistan’s northwest, Online News reported. The group also made the following additional demands: the US must remove all military and intelligence bases from Pakistan; all non-government organizations must cease activities in Pakistan; the private security company Blackwater (now Xe) should not be allowed to operate in the country; al Qaeda operative and Pakistani national Aafia Siddiqui should be released from the US; all Taliban fighters and al Qaeda operatives should be released from prison; and former President Pervez Musharraf should face trial.
The spokesman threatened more attacks if the demands are not met.
Amjad Hussain Farooqi, the inspiration for the Amjad Farooqi Group
The Amjad Farooqi Group is named after Amjad Hussain Farooqi, a jihadi who was allied with al Qaeda and who was behind two assassination attempts against Musharraf in 2003 and suspected of being involved in other terror attacks as well. Farooqi was killed by Pakistani security forces on Sept. 26, 2004.
According to terrorism analyst B. Raman, Farooqi had a long pedigree in jihadi circles. He served in the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan in Kabul and led an assault to take over Herat in 1992 after being noticed by Mullah Omar. Farooqi then joined the Harkat-ul-Ansar (which later became the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen) and joined the jihad against India in Kashmir.
Farooqi served as a close aide to Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. He also served as the group’s representative to al Qaeda’s International Islamic Front. He is thought to have been involved in the Indian airliner hijacking that led to the release of both Maulana Masood Azhar, the future leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Sheikh Omar Saeed, a senior al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed operative involved in the death of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
After the US invasion of Afghanistan, Farooqi led thousands of Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami fighters to battle US forces.
After returning from Afghanistan, Farooqi is said to have become closely allied with Abu Faraj al Libi, the former operations chief for al Qaeda. Al Libi is said to have convinced Farooqi to conduct the assassination attempts against Musharraf. Al Libi was captured by Pakistani security forces and is now in US custody.
The Amjad Farooqi Group lived on after its leader was killed in the summer of 2004. Its operatives are routinely picked up, and the group was thought to be behind a suicide bombing at the Islamabad airport that targeted former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.