Commandos free hostages in Pakistan

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A shuttle van driver who witnessed Saturday’s 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.

A police intelligence report in July obtained by the AP on Saturday warned that members of the Taliban, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group based in the country’s Punjab province, were planning to attack army headquarters disguised as soldiers.

The attack in Rawalpindi comes on the heels of a warning from Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud that his fighters will avenge the death of their former leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a U.S. drone attack in August, and resist the army’s operation in Waziristan.

The Pakistani government vowed to press ahead with its offensive in South Waziristan.

“I want to give a message to the Taliban that what we did with you in Swat, we will do the same to you there [in Waziristan], too,” said Interior Minister Rehman Malik, referring to the military’s operation that drove the Taliban out of the picturesque Swat Valley, about 100 miles northwest of Islamabad.

“We are going to come heavy on you,” Mr. Malik said.

Officials said Saturday that they had raided a house in the capital where the attackers were thought to have stayed. They found military uniforms and bomb-making equipment.

Saturday’s assault was the latest in a string of attacks by the Taliban. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, last week, and a bombing across the border in Peshawar, Pakistan, killed at least 49.

Earlier this month, a Taliban suicide bomber struck the U.N. World Food Program office in Islamabad. That attack killed five employees. The bomber who attacked the U.N. office was also wearing a security forces uniform and was granted entry to the compound after asking to use the bathroom.

Indian and Afghan officials have accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency of playing a role in the attack on the Indian Embassy.

But Sumit Ganguly, director of research at the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University in Bloomington, said the attack in Rawalpindi showed some factions of the Taliban “may well be out of the hands of their Pakistani mentors.”

“Furthermore, some of these factions may well be unhappy with the willingness of [Pakistani President Asif Ali] Zardari’s government to work with the U.S.,” Mr. Ganguly told The Times.

Pakistan’s military and opposition leaders have chastised the Zardari government over U.S. legislation that links military aid to Pakistan to cooperation from Islamabad in the war against the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

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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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