Hostages held in Pakistan Taliban attack

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Taliban militants, heavily armed and disguised in military uniforms, struck at the heart of Pakistan’s military establishment in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Saturday, taking up to 15 soldiers hostage and killing 6, including two ranking officers.

The standoff continued into the early hours of Sunday. Four militants were among the dead.

The attack comes as Pakistan’s military readies for an offensive against militants holed up in the mountainous South Waziristan region in the country’s northwest.

The hostage situation playing out a stone’s throw away from the Pakistani capital Islamabad highlighted the deadly potency of the Pakistani Taliban at a time when reports suggest that one of the strategies the Obama administration is contemplating is a softer approach toward to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brooking Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, dismissed the rationale behind this strategy — that al Qaeda, not the Taliban, is the real enemy — as a fairy tale.

He said the attack in Rawalpindi showed the extent of the Taliban’s reach. This attack underscores the audacity of the Taliban, Mr. Riedel told The Washington Times. Attacking the Pakistani Pentagon shows the jihadists can strike anywhere.

He said the bar for determining whether the Taliban are willing to enter into serious negotiations with the U.S. should be whether they are willing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Mr. Riedel oversaw the review of President Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy.

Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said four or five assailants were holding between 10 and 15 troops hostage in a building close to the main gates of the complex in Rawalpindi, the Associated Press reported. He said no senior military or intelligence officials were among the hostages.

Pakistani soldiers had surrounded the complex. They will decide how and when to act, Gen. Abbas said, declining to comment on whether authorities had attempted to talk to the hostage takers or whether they had made any demands.

A shuttle van driver who witnessed the attack told the Associated Press, There was fierce firing, and then there was a blast.

Soldiers were running here and there, Khan Bahadur said. The firing continued for about a half-hour. There was smoke everywhere. Then there was a break, and then firing again.

The assailants drove to the army headquarters in a white van with military plates.

Officials and analysts were stunned by the serious breach of security in one of the most heavily guarded areas of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation.

Gen. Abbas told Pakistan’s Geo TV gunmen had eluded security forces and slipped into the compound.

We are trying to finish it [the siege] at the earliest, clear the area of terrorists and restore complete control, he said.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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