The latest attempt in a string of attacks against Pakistani government officials
Pakistani security officials examine a long barreled anti-aircraft gun and a light machine gun, found on the rooftop of a house in Rawalpindi [AP Photo]. Click to view.
As the Lal Masjid standoff nears the end of its fourth day, a report surfaced of an assassination attempt against President Pervez Musharraf. An anonymous intelligence officer told Pakistani television that “there was an attempt, that was missed,” against President Musharraf’s airplane as it took off from the military airport in Rawalpindi. Some reports indicate the plane was fired on with anti-aircraft guns, while others said a missile was fired. An anonymous American military intelligence told The Long War Journal that the attack did indeed occur, and that “it came very, very close to taking him out.”
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) denied an attack took place and reported President Musharraf is safe in Baluchistan. But the ISPR spokesman conceded Pakistani commandos seized two anti-aircraft guns and a light machine gun on the roof of a home directly in the flight path of the Rawalpindi military airfield. Ammunition was also found at the home.
Al Qaeda and other allied Pakistani jihadi groups have conducted several assassination attempts against President Musharraf over the past several years. There were three attempts to killed President Musharraf over the course of 2002, and two attempts within 14 days in December 2003.
The 2003 attacks, both which occurred in Rawalpindi, were sophisticated. The first attack, on December 14, was designed to blow up a bridge as Musharraf’s convoy crossed it. The attack was foiled by a jamming device. The second attack consisted of two suicide car bombers directed at his convoy. Al Qaeda operative Amjad Farooqi carried out the 2003 attacks along with former al Qaeda in Pakistan leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who is now in U.S. custody. Farooqi, who was involved in the murder and beheading of Daniel Pearl and sheltered 9-11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was killed by Pakistani security forces during a raid in 2004.
The Taliban and al Qaeda have attempted to assassinate other senior Pakistani officials over the past several years. In February 2007, a suicide bomber attempted to kill Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at the Islamabad airport. The suicide bomber was stopped in a parking garage before he could reach his target.
In April 2007, the Taliban targeted Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao with a suicide strike while he was addressing his political party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao Group), in the settled district of Charsadda in Northwest Frontier Province. Abdullah Mehsud, a powerful Taliban commander based out of South Waziristan, was behind the attack. Abdullah Mehsud is a member of the same tribe as Baitullah Mehsud, another senior Taliban tribal leader in South Waziristan. Baitullah Meshud conducted a suicide and bombing campaign against the Pakistani government in the late winter and spring of 2007.