Pakistan: Home-grown Al-Qaeda led militants 'behind Lahore attack'

Lahore, 30 March (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Home-grown Al-Qaeda led militants are behind Monday's deadly attack on a police training academy in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, according to interior ministry chief Rahman Malik and some security analysts, including former general Talat Massood.

Such attacks have in the past been blamed on foreign intelligence agencies. While militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007, most violence has been in the northwest near the Afghan border.

Militant sources confirmed the early-morning grenade and rifle assault on the police academy was retaliation by Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Punjabi militants for Pakistan's recent cooperation with the United States in hunting down Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

The attack marks a new front in the war against Pakistan's security forces, the sources said.

Between 18 and 20 gunmen reportedly killed up to 50 people, wounded up to 90 and took hundreds of police cadets hostage during an eight-hour siege of the academy.

The siege ended when Pakistani security forces took control of the building. Four gunmen were killed in heavy exchanges of fire with army snipers while a fifth suspected gunman (photo)was taken into custody.

News reports were unclear over how many of the other gunmen had died in the siege, with police saying they may have blown themselves up.

The assault copied attacks carried out by gunmen from the banned militant Kashmiri separatist group Laskar-e-Toiba against military camps in Indian administered Kashmir.

LeT fighters - allegedly trained by elements in Pakistan's ISI military intelligence - have been known to infiltrate army camps disguised in the uniforms of the Indian security forces before carrying out massacres and taking hostages.

Some of the militants involved in Monday's attack in Lahore were wearing police uniforms, while other were wearing plain clothes and masks. They had 'inside' help to enter the academy and appeared to be highly trained, sources said.

More attacks of this sort are expected in bigger cities such as the southern port city of Karachi and the capital Islambad to press Pakistan and its military to stop its cooperation with Washington's drive to route militants carrying out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


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