Two officers, suicide bomber killed at police compound in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A recent surge in suicide attacks in Pakistan reached the capital yesterday when a man wearing an explosive-laden jacket attacked a police compound but was shot down before he could enter the main building. Two officers died and six other were wounded, police said.
The assault fit with a Taliban threat made 10 days earlier that militants would launch strikes in major cities across Pakistan in retaliation for the military's month-old offensive to oust the Taliban from the Swat Valley in the country's northwest.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred in the early evening at a police emergency response center in a residential neighborhood of Islamabad.
Waquar Shah, an officer on duty at the center when it was attacked, said a man wearing a heavy jacket was spotted as he jumped over a wall at the center into a courtyard.
"He jumped in from the rear wall, then ran toward the offices," Shah said. "One of our guys opened fire on him and he fell and blew up."
Senior police commander Tahir Aalam said two officers were killed and six were injured.
Earlier yesterday, militants ambushed a military convoy in a district near Swat, killing two detained aides of a senior cleric with close ties to the Taliban, the army said.
The motive for the attack was not clear, though it could have been an attempt to rescue the prisoners or a bid to assassinate them before they could provide intelligence to the military about the Swat offensive.
"These two were being transported so that intelligence agencies could investigate them," military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told reporters yesterday. "I wouldn't rule out that they were targeted or killed on purpose."
A roadside bomb and gunfire hit the convoy before dawn as it traveled from Sakhakot town near Swat to the main northwestern city of Peshawar, the army said. One soldier also died in the attack and five were wounded.
The army identified the prisoners as Muhammad Maulana Alam and Ameer Izzat Khan, top aides to hard-line cleric Sufi Muhammad, who is the father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban chief in Swat. Alam and Khan were detained in a raid near Swat on Thursday.
Sufi Muhammad negotiated a peace deal with the government that was widely seen as allowing the Taliban to take control of the valley.
The deal collapsed earlier this year when the Taliban advanced into neighboring districts, triggering a military offensive that prompted retaliatory attacks by militants in the northwest and beyond.
Rasul Bahksh Rais, a political scientist at Lahore University, said the killings may have been deliberate to prevent Alam and Khan from giving the military information that could help find Taliban leaders.
"I think it was a targeted killing by the militants because they could identify the whereabouts of some of the militant" leaders, Rais told a TV network.
The offensive in Swat is seen as a test of Pakistan's resolve to take on militants who have challenged the central government's rule by strengthening their influence in the border region with Afghanistan.
More than 1,300 militants and 105 soldiers have died so far, Abbas said, but he conceded there were few senior Taliban leaders among the dead.
"They are the center of gravity of this movement, and unless and until they are killed, we cannot declare victory in this whole operation," he said.
On Friday, a suicide attacker blew himself up inside a packed mosque in Haya Gai in a district near Swat, killing 33 people.