The Pakistani military garrison city of Rawalpindi has been hit with yet another suicide attack. Ten Pakistanis were killed after a suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a bus carrying military personnel. This is the latest in a series of strikes in the city since the summer of 2007.
The blast took place during rush hour on a road passing through a crowded market in Rawalpindi. The bus was carrying personnel from the Army Medical Corps. Six soldiers and four civilians were reported killed and 25 more were wounded.
Today’s attack was the sixth strike targeting military and political leaders in the garrison city of Rawalpindi since July 2007. On July 6, 2007 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 Sept. 4, 2007, 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. On Oct. 30, a suicide bomber killed seven people, including two police officers, and wounded 14 outside of the military headquarters.
On Nov. 23, 2007, two suicide bombers struck a post outside the military general headquarters and a bus carrying personnel working for the Inter Services Intelligence agency. Fifteen were killed and scores wounded in the November 2007 bombings.
The attacks reached a crescendo at the end of 2007 with the assassination of Pakistan People’s Party leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A shooter and suicide bomber penetrated Bhutto’s security perimeter. Bhutto was shot in the head. More than 20 of her supporters and security detail were killed and scores wounded after the suicide bomber detonated. Al Qaeda and South Waziristan Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud took credit for the assassination.
Rawalpindi’s sister city of Islamabad has suffered a series of suicide strikes this year, including an attempt on former Prime Minister Aziz in February and the bombing of a hotel near the Lal Masjid after Pakistani forces stormed the mosque in July.
The Taliban and al Qaeda intensified their suicide campaign in the winter and spring of 2007 against targets in Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, and a host of cities and towns throughout Pakistan.
Al Qaeda has inspired and supported the attacks on the Pakistani military and government. In July 2007, al Qaeda spokesman Abu Yahya al Libi called for the Pakistani people and the military to rise up against the Musharraf regime. Al Libi was later reinforced by both al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his second in command Ayman al Zawahiri.
The Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency has taken a heavy toll against Pakistani security forces. While the overall number of casualties has not been made public, an Interior Ministry report on the fighting in the district of Swat paints a disturbing picture. The Interior Ministry reported 195 soldiers, paramilitaries, and police were killed in Swat during the month of January 2008. This far outpaces the number of US and Iraqi security forces casualties taken in Iraq – 108 – during the same time period.
As the attacks and bombing continue throughout Pakistan, the military is seeking to cut another peace deal with the Taliban in South Waziristan. Sources close to the negotiations told Dawn a deal is close. Major General Athar Abbas, the military spokesman, denied negotiations are taking place. In the past Abbas has denied military casualties and kidnappings, and denied the Taliban overran military outposts, only to be proven wrong.
The government is also negotiating a peace accord with the Taliban in North Waziristan. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied terror groups operate at least 29 training camps in North and South Waziristan alone.
See The Fall of the Northwest Frontier Province for the full history of the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal regions and beyond.
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