A Taliban suicide assault team battled their way past security guards at the outer gate of a five-star hotel in Peshawar and detonated a massive car bomb that leveled part of the building and killed at least 11 people. The attack is the latest in a series of complex assaults against high-security targets inside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The complex attack took place at the luxury Pearl Continental Hotel in a high-security zone in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the northwest Frontier Province. At 10:30 PM Pakistan time, two vehicles carrying the assault team opened fire at the security gate and breached the perimeter. Gunmen in one vehicle killed the security guards and opened the gates for the other vehicle, which then pulled up in front of the hotel and detonated the truck bomb that is estimated to have contained more than 1,000 pounds of explosives.
“The assailants first killed the security guards on the main gate to lower the electronic barrier and then went inside the main parking lot, firing indiscriminately,” Police Chief Safwat Ghayyir told Dawn. “A mini-truck laden with explosives then entered the hotel premises and exploded in the main parking lot close to the main building.”
The resulting blast leveled a section of the building and left a large crater in the ground. Eleven people have been reported killed and more than 70 have been wounded; nine of those wounded are reported to be in critical condition. At least two foreigners, including a worker from the United Nations Human Rights Commission, were killed in the blast.
Today’s complex attack in Peshawar is the latest in a series of similar attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Peshawar has previously been the scene of one of these types of attacks, which employ suicide bombers accompanied by gunmen.
On May 28, the Taliban detonated two bombs just minutes apart in a central bazaar in Peshawar. The initial blast killed six civilians and wounded more than 70 people. The Taliban followed up the bombings by ambushing police forces as they responded to the attack. The Taliban placed shooters on the rooftops and fired on police in the streets. Two of the Taliban attackers were killed and two more were captured. Shortly after the attack in the bazaar, a suicide bomber detonated at a checkpoint manned by paramilitary troops. Two of the troops were killed and three more were wounded in the attack.
The day prior, a group called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab, or the Movement of the Taliban in Punjab, executed and took credit for a complex assault on police and intelligence headquarters in a secured region of Lahore. Twenty-three people, including police and officials from the Inter-Service Intelligence agency, were killed after an assault team opened fire on security personnel and stormed the ISI headquarters. During the attack, a truck laden with explosives was detonated in front of the police headquarters, leveling the building.
Lahore has been the scene of two other such complex attacks this year. On March 30, a terrorist assault team made up of 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.
Baitullah Mehsud, the South Waziristan-based commander of the Pakistani Taliban, took credit for the March 30 attack 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. The US has conducted 19 Predator strikes this year; the last strike was on May 16.
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.
Peshawar has been the target of several major attacks of various kinds, including suicide strikes, IED attacks, targeted assassinations, and bombings at schools, CD shops, and markets since the military launched an operation to oust the Taliban in the northern districts of Swat, Dir, and Buner. The Pakistani Taliban have vowed to strike in the major cities, and Peshawar has suffered the brunt of the attacks. The Taliban have also struck in Lahore and the capital of Islamabad. Police, intelligence, and military headquarters have been the main targets of the Taliban attacks.
Today, the Pakistani military opened a new front against the Taliban. Forces have moved against the pro-Taliban tribes in Jani Khel and Baka Khel in Bannu on the border with North Waziristan. The military claimed 20 Taliban fighters have been killed in the attack, which is thought to be a prelude to an operation against the Taliban in North and South Waziristan.
List of major complex attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India since January 2008:
May 28, 2009: The Taliban detonated two bombs just minutes apart in a central bazaar in Peshawar. The initial blast killed six civilians and wounded more than 70 people. The Taliban followed up the bombings by ambushing police forces as they responded to the attack.
May 27, 2009: The Punjabi Taliban launched a complex assault on police and intelligence headquarters in a secured region of Lahore. Twenty-three people, including police and officials from the Inter-Service Intelligence agency, were killed after an assault team opened fire on security personnel and stormed the ISI headquarters. During the attack a truck laden with explosives was detonated in front of the police headquarters, leveling the building.
April 1, 2009: Four Taliban suicide bombers disguised as Afghan soldiers attempted to kill the Kandahar provincial council after entering the compound. Security forces foiled the attack but seven civilians and six policemen were killed during the fighting.
March 30, 2009: A terrorist assault team made up of 14 men launched a coordinated attack on the Manawan Police Training School in Lahore, Pakistan. 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.
March 3, 2009: 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.
Feb. 11, 2009 The Taliban conducted a multi-pronged assault on two Afghan ministries and a prison headquarters in the capital of Kabul that resulted in 19 people killed and more than 50 wounded.
Dec. 4, 2008: A three-man suicide team stormed the headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence service in Khost province. Six intelligence and police officials were killed and another seven were wounded.
November 26, 2008: An assault team from the Lashkar-e-Taiba conducted a seaborne assault on the city of Mumbai. A squad of heavily armed attackers assaulted hotels, police stations, a train station, a cinema, and a Jewish center in India’s financial capital. The siege lasted more than 60 hours and resulted in more than 170 people killed.
Sept. 7, 2008: Two Taliban suicide bombers entered a police headquarters in Kandahar province and searched for a senior police general in charge of border security at the Spin Boldak crossing point. Six policemen were killed and 37 were wounded, including the general, in the bombings.
Sept. 6, 2008: A Taliban suicide bomber penetrated a secure government building in the southwestern province of Nimroz and detonated his vest. The attack killed six people, including Nimroz province’s intelligence chief and his 20-year-old son.
On April 27, 2008: A Taliban assault team attempted to assassinate President Karzai during a military parade outside Kabul. Two members of parliament were killed and eleven others were wounded during the barrage of automatic gunfire and mortar shells.
Jan. 14, 2008: A suicide assault team from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network raided the heavily secured Serena Hotel. Terrorists wearing suicide vests breached the front gate with a suicide attack and then entered the hotel and began shooting civilians. A Norwegian journalist, an American aid worker, and at least five security guards were killed in the assault.
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Given that this particular hotel was a known ‘intelligence’ gathering location for a lot of western (primarily American) intelligence operatives – can the possibility of ISI involvement in planning/execution be completely discounted? The ongoing speculations about a possible sale to the US may have hastened the operation.
From McClatchy News, via Rantburg:
A senior State Department official confirmed that the U.S. plan for the consulate in Peshawar involves the purchase of the luxury Pearl Continental hotel. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The Pearl Contintental is the city’s only five-star hotel, set in its own expansive grounds, with a swimming pool. It’s owned by Pakistani tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani.
Article date: May 27
Article link: //www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/68952.html?storylink=omni_popular
I’m leaning toward inside job.
Video of the attack has been posted on Live Leak
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 06/10/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.