Pakistan: Mosque attack 'a failure' of military intelligence

Islamabad, 4 Dec. (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Friday's brazen assault on the Pakistani army's high-security mosque in the northern garrison town of Rawalpindi was a failure of the country's security apparatus. The gun and grenade attack came amid escalating hostilities between the army and militants who have recently stepped attacks in response to a fierce military offensive in the country's northwest tribal areas.

At least 40 people including a major general and 16 children of senior military officers were killed and many others were injured when gunmen attacked the Parade Lane mosque with hand grenades and machine guns.

Interior minister Rehman Malik said the attackers had also detonated bombs while shooting at worshippers at the mosque as they were preparing for Friday worshippers.

The children killed in the assault included the only son of the northwestern city of Peshawar's corps commander Lt. General Masood Aslam.

Aslam is currently commanding the ongoing military offensive against militants in the lawless northwestern tribal area and Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, in which hundreds of militants have died.

"This war is going to be a personal war now with so many children of high level officials having been killed and I think the army will react very strongly against the militants in the tribal areas," security analyst Zaid Hamid told Adnkronos International (AKI).

The Pakistani military is engaged in a fierce offensive in the northwest tribal region along the Afghan border, where the core Taliban leadership and Al-Qaeda-linked militants are believed to be hiding in rugged mountain terrain. Thousands of militants have been killed there this year.

The army claims over 500 militants have been killed in the South Waziristan ground and air offensive, which began in mid-October.

Friday's attack shows the level of hostility between the security forces and militants. Their successful intelligence enabled the militants to target the army mosque.

Scores were injured in Friday's attack, most of them soldiers.The mosque's roof caved in as a result of the attack.

Most senior army officials, including the army chief, come to the mosque to attend Friday prayers. The major general who was killed in the attack, Bilal Omar was the director of the General Armored corps.

The Pakistani security forces have been targeted in a series of recent attacks.

In October, militants stormed the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, sparking a day-long siege which left 22 people dead, including several senior military personnel.

About 40 people were taken hostage, until security forces stormed the army compound.

Militants targeted Rawalpindi in early November in a powerful blast outside a 4-star hotel killing at least 24 people and injuring 40 others, among them a Pakistani army major.

The army says it has supplied a list of 54 wanted militants to the powerful Mehsud tribe in northwest Pakistan who they want it to hand over in exchange for ending the land and ground offensive in South Waziristan.


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