Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hubris in Pakistan: they were warned about attack

From the New York Times:

The mastermind of the militant assault on Saturday that shook the heart of the Pakistani military was behind two other major attacks in the last two years, and the police had specifically warned the military in July that such an audacious raid was being planned, police and intelligence officials said Sunday.

The revelation of prior warning was sure to intensify scrutiny of Pakistan’s ability to fight militants, after nine men wearing army uniforms breached the military headquarters complex in Rawalpindi and held dozens hostage for 20 hours until a commando raid ended the siege. In all, 16 people were killed, including eight of the attackers, the military said.

The surviving militant, who was captured early Sunday morning, was identified as Muhammad Aqeel, who officials said was a former soldier and the planner of this attack and others. Mr. Aqeel, who is also known as Dr. Usman because he had once worked with the Army Medical Corps before dropping out about four years ago, is believed to be a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant group affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

The army has been promising to fight back against the fierce Taliban insurgency holed up in the tribal region of South Waziristan amid pressure from the Obama administration, which is about to secure a major aid package that would give $1.5 billion a year to the government here.

The attack on the headquarters was a signal that the Taliban insurgency had penetrated deeply into Punjab Province, where the military headquarters are located, and was no longer confined to the wild tribal areas that serve as the operational center for the Pakistani Taliban.

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