- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Masked men armed with AK-47 assault rifles stormed a school for missionary children yesterday, killing six and wounding three in the latest attack on Christian targets in this overwhelmingly Muslim nation.
Some 150 students, including 30 Americans and the mostly British staff at the Murree Christian School, were spared when as many as four gunmen fled under fire from a security guard, police said.
The dead two security guards, a receptionist, a cook, a carpenter and a bystander all were Pakistanis. The gunman also wounded three persons, including a Filipina, before escaping.
"Their goal was to hit foreigners," said police District Cmdr. Moravet Shah. "What we know is that they were terrorists. Whether they were religious terrorists, we have to determine."
Police found a note at the scene expressing "resentment against world powers," Cmdr. Shah said.
He refused to elaborate. Another policeman, who did not identify himself, told the Associated Press that a note left by the attackers referred to the "unjust" killings of Muslims, Palestinians and Kashmir fighters.
The attack came days after Islamic militants warned of another strike against Christian or foreign targets.
Yesterday's attack in the Himalayan foothills about 35 miles northeast of Islamabad was the third on Christians since October, when 17 persons were gunned down at a church in the central Pakistani city of Bahawalpur.
In March, a bomb in an Islamabad church frequented by diplomats left five persons dead, including a U.S. Embassy officer and her daughter.
In yesterday's attack, gunmen approached a guard post that was set up just three months ago. They pulled weapons out of duffel bags and opened fire, killing a security guard and a Pakistani man who happened to be nearby.
The gunmen stormed the gates and shot a second guard and a school receptionist before another security guard opened fire, forcing the attackers to run across the school grounds.
Before jumping over a fence and fleeing, they killed a cook and carpenter.
"We heard the shots, so we all hid under tables and in cupboards and things until we got the all-clear," said an Englishman who would not give his name. "All of the parents then came and got their kids."
The latest attack came despite a high alert in Islamabad and other major cities. As part of the alert, authorities doubled the number of police and security guards outside sensitive offices and other buildings in Islamabad.
"They don't even allow us to drive past that church any more unless we have special security passes," said a taxi driver, referring to the church in the diplomatic enclave where the explosion occurred in March.
Yesterday's attack was the sixth against Western targets in Pakistan this year, most of which have been blamed on Islamic militants angered by President Pervez Musharraf's support of the U.S. war on terrorism.
The U.S. State Department condemned the attack and extended its "deepest sympathies to the families of the Pakistani victims," spokesman Philip T. Reeker said.
Pakistani Information Minister Nisar Memon branded the attack a terrorist act and said, "Pakistan is firmly resolved to fight terrorism."
Russell Morton, the school's Australian director, said the academy had received no threats and had never been attacked since it was founded in 1956 to train children of Christian missionaries working in South Asia.
"I think there is a determination to stick it out and continue to work within Pakistan," he said. "But the board will have to consider very carefully the implications for the children."
The school reopened in February after a four-month closure due to security concerns about the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan.
Murree is only about 35 miles from Manshehra, where unidentified assailants recently hurled explosives at a group of foreign reporters traveling by bus on the Karakoram Highway, on the way to the Chinese border.
Police are still investigating that and other terrorist attacks carried out since October.
Members of the group arrested for a June car bombing at the U.S. consulate in Karachi are due to go on trial in an anti-terrorism court Saturday.
They say they are from a group calling itself the Harkatul Mujahideen al-Aalmi, or World Movement of Holy Warriors, and are believed to be linked to al Qaeda.
Police have been making slow progress in the investigation of a car bomb that killed 11 French technicians and four Pakistanis outside the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi on May 8.
Residue from the explosives used "have been sent to France for forensic tests," Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said. "We are expecting to receive the results in a few days."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide