- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Insurgents killed dozens of people in three suicide attacks on government and civilian targetstoday, even as Pakistan“s leaders insisted they will tackle Islamic militancy on their own and without direction from Washington.

A car bomber raced up alongside a heavily armed police convoy escorting Chinese engineers and detonated his car, killing 36 policemen and civilians while wounding another 54, said government officials.

The attack near the port city of Karachi and others like it bore the hallmarks of international terrorist networks, including al Qaeda, which are working closely with their Pakistani counterparts, according to U.S. officials.

Later, a suicide attacker detonated a bomb at a mosque in an army camp at Kohat, about 45 miles south of Peshawar, killing at least 19 persons.

The blast, which wounded at least seven persons, happened during evening prayers, Associated Press quoted police as saying.

Yet another suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance to a police academy in Hangu, 45 miles southwest of Peshawar, killing six bystanders and one policeman, AP said. It said another 24 persons were wounded.

The bombings brought to at least 270 the number of persons killed in Islamist violence since President Pervez Musharraf sent troops to end a weeklong siege at the famed Red Mosque in Islamabad nine days ago.

Despite the violence, Gen. Musharraf and other government officials bristled at the wording of a new U.S. intelligence report that said al Qaeda and its senior leaders have established a haven in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas.

Pakistani analysts said Gen. Musharraf is increasingly seen by the public as doing Washington”s bidding — an unwelcome development as anti-American sentiment intensifies in the frontier areas bordering on Afghanistan.

Mr. Musharraf has sought to avoid any impression that he is fighting a U.S.-led war on terror — at least for public consumption at home.

Speaking to Pakistani news editors on Wednesday, Gen. Musharraf used unusually harsh language to criticize the U.S. intelligence report.

What … are they blaming us for? he snapped, according to the leading newspaper, Dawn. The general, who rose through the ranks of the military in Kashmir, where the army has worked closely with Islamic militants, said he would take no direction from the U.S. or any other country in the fight against extremists.

The military establishment, long the center of power in Pakistan, faces a rising tide of Islamic militancy that is closely allied with Washington”s key enemies in the war on terror, including Osama bin Laden.

Analysts and Western diplomats say the military”s fear of wholeheartedly embracing Washington”s interests is related to public opinion in Pakistan, which has turned squarely against the U.S. government”s military strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pakistani officials insisted this week that they can manage their own internal fight against Islamic extremists.

Their efforts, however, have not gone well in the nine days since government commandos stormed a mosque complex in the capital, killing 100 militants and civilians.

Direct attacks, including suicide bombings, on Pakistani government forces have spread across the western half of the country.

Although U.S. officials have continued to back Mr. Musharraf publicly, Pakistani analysts and some Western diplomats say the country has not fully broken with past policies of supporting Islamic extremism, mainly in support of national and strategic interests in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Pakistani military and intelligence officials have for years told their allies in Washington one thing while supporting militants and actively encouraging anti-American sentiment inside Pakistan, said Umar Farouk, a writer for the Herald, one of Pakistan“s leading political magazines. Now they are faced with the consequences, he said.

Pakistani officials insisted that Washington should look at its own policy of supporting extremists in the past. Many here accuse Washington of having a hand in Osama bin Laden”s rise to power, although they provide no evidence of that.

U.S. intelligence agencies, eager to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, directed the lion”s share of their funding for Islamic radicals through Pakistani intelligence services.

But neither the CIA nor any other U.S. agency directly funded Osama bin Laden, who rose to fame in that same era.