Attacks kill 16 in Pakistan as spy agency targeted

Author: AP

The bombings were the latest in a string of attacks on security forces,
civilians and Western targets since the government launched an offensive in
mid-October against militants in the border region of South Waziristan,
where al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding out.

The attack on the Inter-Services Intelligence agency building occurred in the
city of Peshawar, which has borne the brunt of the militants’ retaliation
against the army offensive. A wave of bombings in the last week alone in and
around the city has killed more than 50 people.

“This is a guerrilla war,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the
information minister for North West Frontier Province, where Peshawar is the
capital. “We will continue our action against these militant
terrorists. That is the only way we can survive.”

Security forces guarding the intelligence complex opened fire on a pickup
laden with explosives, but the bomber was able to detonate his payload, said
an intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was
not authorized to talk to the media.

The early morning blast, heard across the city, destroyed much of the
three-story building and killed 10 people, including seven who worked for
the spy agency, the army said in a statement. Another 55 people were
wounded, officials said.

“I was going to work when the blast took place and shattered the windows
of our vehicle,” said witness Abdul Rahim Khan. “Thank God we are
safe. There were a lot of dead bodies lying around.”

About an hour later, a second suicide car bomber attacked a police station
farther south near the Afghan border, killing six people, said police
official Tahir Shah. Five of the dead were policemen working at the station
in Bakkakhel village in Bannu district; the other was a civilian. Another 27
people were wounded, he said.

The station is close to the border with North Waziristan, an area in
Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal region where officials believe many
militants have fled to escape the recent army offensive.

The bombings took place as U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones
visited the country for talks with top political and security officials,
including military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The government has vowed the surging militant attacks will not dent the
country’s resolve to pursue the operation in South Waziristan, where
officials say the most deadly insurgent network in Pakistan is based. The
army claims to be making good progress, though on Friday reported the loss
of 12 soldiers over the last 24 hours, one of its largest single-day losses
since the campaign began.

The U.S. has urged Pakistan to persevere with its South Waziristan offensive
because militants have used the area as a base to attack Western troops
across the border in Afghanistan.

Friday’s attack in Peshawar was the second to target a spy agency complex this
year. A suicide squad using guns, grenades and a van packed with explosives
attacked a police and an ISI building in Lahore in May, killing 30 people.

The ISI has been involved in scores of covert operations in the northwest
against al-Qaida targets since 2001, when many militant leaders crossed into
the area following the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan. The region is seen
as a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden.

Its offices in Peshawar are on the main road leading from the city to
Afghanistan. The agency was instrumental in using CIA money to train jihadi
groups to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Despite
assisting in the fight against al-Qaida since then, some Western officials
consider the agency an unreliable ally and allege it still maintains links
with militants.

Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are waging a war against the Pakistani
government because they deem it un-Islamic and are angry about its alliance
with the United States. The insurgency began in earnest in 2007, and attacks
have spiked since the run-up to the offensive in South Waziristan.

A car bomb exploded in a market in Peshawar at the end of October, killing at
least 112 people in the deadliest attack in Pakistan in over two years. On
Oct. 10, a team of militants staged a raid on the army headquarters close to
the capital, Islamabad, taking soldiers hostages in a 22-hour standoff that
left nine militants and 14 others dead.

Militants have also targeted convoys in Pakistan delivering supplies to
soldiers in Afghanistan.

Attackers fired rockets at a group of tankers near the southwestern city of
Quetta on Friday that were delivering fuel to U.S. and NATO troops. One
driver was killed and five tankers were torched, said local police chief
Bedar Ali Magsi.

About 80 percent of all nonessential supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan
are trucked through Pakistan after landing at the Arabian Sea port of
Karachi. NATO and U.S. officials say the attacks do not affect their

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