LAHORE, Pakistan | Attacks on three cities Thursday put Pakistan at the vortex of a “guerrilla war,” with militants shuttering the nation’s cultural capital of Lahore - a city of dance and music that had once vowed to stand up to the Taliban.
Coordinated assaults in quick succession targeted three security facilities in Lahore, underscoring the ability of militants to strike anywhere, while Pakistan’s army prepares for a ground assault on a militant stronghold near the Afghan border more than 300 miles away.
Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war against Islamic militants, has been hit by major attacks nearly every other day since a suicide bomber made it inside a secure U.N. compound in the capital, Islamabad, on Oct. 5. Five U.N. workers died in that assault, and more than 150 people have been killed in terrorist attacks since.
“The enemy has started a guerrilla war. The whole nation should be united against these handful of terrorists, and God willing we will defeat them,” Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. With attacks in Peshawar and Kohat, officials put Thursday’s death toll at least 40.
• Militants escalate Pakistan ‘guerrilla war’
In Washington, President Obama signed into law a bill giving Pakistan $7.5 billion in aid over the next five years for civilian projects such as schools.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said the attacks showed that “the militants in Pakistan threaten both Pakistan and the United States.”
Most of the carnage in Lahore on Thursday took place between 9 and 10 a.m., when gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) near an open plaza at the city center. Similar and near-simultaneous attacks hit a police training academy and a separate academy for special forces, both on the outskirts of Lahore.
“Our city is under attack,” screamed a student at the Beaconhouse National University, one of the largest private universities in the country. “I can’t believe those idiots are striking us again and again.”
With tears flowing down her cheeks, she ran from the courtyard back to the safety of her classroom without giving her name.
Raees Khalid, 27, a fellow student watched, shook his head and said: “If we’re going to defeat the Taliban, we have to be stronger than this - much stronger.”
When the first shots rang out near the FIA building, classes were going on at the university.
Initially the students responded to the crack of gunfire with shoulder shrugs and a “what’s new” attitude.
Then gradually as the severity of the situation became known droves of students began expressing their rage at the attackers.
“They’re idiots,” and “They are bringing a bad name to Islam” were commonly heard opinions on campus. And then as the number of casualties rose, the same students who had vowed to keep attending classes were overcome with fear and went home.View Entire Story
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