Second gun attack on brigadier in Pakistan capital
A Pakistani brigadier escaped assassination Tuesday in the capital's second shooting targeting a senior officer in less than a week, as the military pursued a major anti-Taliban offensive.world Updated: Oct 28, 2009 15:38 IST
A Pakistani brigadier escaped assassination Tuesday in the capital's second shooting targeting a senior officer in less than a week, as the military pursued a major anti-Taliban offensive.
No one was hurt in the Islamabad attack but tensions are high following a spike in violence blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists. The attacks have left nearly 200 people dead this month and raised acute US concerns.
"Brigadier Waqar Ahmed, who was posted at GHQ (general headquarters), was accompanied by his mother and driver and was going to a local hospital when terrorists fired bullets on him," police officer Khurshid Khan told AFP.
"Luckily all of them survived," he said.
The assailants escaped on a motorcycle, in a near copycat of an attack on an army jeep in Islamabad last Thursday that killed a brigadier on leave from a UN peacekeeping mission and his driver.
Increasingly brazen militant attacks have revealed the extremists' reach across the country and embarrassed the powerful military.
Most audacious was an assault this month on the army's GHQ nerve centre in garrison city Rawalpindi where 10 gunmen kept up a nearly 24-hour siege claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) movement.
Pakistan has vowed to crush the network, pressing an 11-day ground and air offensive targeting TTP in their South Waziristan stronghold along the Afghan border where Al-Qaeda is accused of plotting attacks on the West.
Commanders claim to have captured strategic heights and villages in their most ambitious anti-Taliban offensive yet. More than 200,000 people have fled their homes, and there are signs the Taliban are seeking to widen the conflict.
More than 125,000 people have been registered as displaced in the neighbouring districts of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank since October 13, UN refugee agency spokeswoman Arianne Rummery told AFP on Tuesday.
"They join the other 80,500 people which were previously registered. So this means the total registered caseload in terms of families is 28,242, which is around 206,000 people," she said.
Families began fleeing South Waziristan in late May when the military embarked on a campaign of air strikes ahead of the anticipated ground assault, but Rummery said the numbers could go down after verification is complete.
"The volatile security situation constraints our movement," she said.
In keeping with a recent pattern, militants attacked a Pakistani security forces checkpoint much further north in the lawless tribal belt overnight. The raid in Mohmand killed two troops, officials said Tuesday.
Some 30 militants stormed the post at Baizai village. In retaliation, the security forces killed six militants, a paramilitary official told AFP.
The Taliban have already stepped up attacks in Bajaur, which like South Waziristan is part of Pakistan's largely autonomous tribal belt on the Afghan border, considered a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
On Monday, the military and officials reported that 11 soldiers were killed in similar attacks in Bajaur and Hangu, and during fighting in South Waziristan, in the deadliest 24 hours since the assault began 11 days ago.
The military says 197 militants and 30 troops have been killed in South Waziristan, but the information is impossible to verify with access banned to journalists and aid workers.
Pakistan has deployed 30,000 troops against around 10,000 TTP fighters, who have been blamed for some of the worst attacks in a two-year bombing campaign that has killed more than 2,280 people nationwide.