Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pukhtunkhwa govt demands military operation in Waziristan, Punjab

PESHAWAR: Following the suicide blast in Peshawar on Friday and Saturday’s attack on the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the NWFP government has demanded the federal government launch a decisive military operation in Waziristan and southern Punjab.

NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain conveyed the provincial government’s demand during a press briefing on Saturday. “The NWFP government-supported military operation in Malakand has succeeded. The people of Malakand are free from the Taliban. Now, the time has come for the federal government to start a decisive military operation in Waziristan and put a halt to the terrorism spreading from these tribal agencies to the rest of the country,” he said.

“The NWFP will continue to be plagued by suicide attacks until the training centres are destroyed,” he said. The minister said there were reports of training camps in the Muridke region of Punjab too, adding the government should launch a military operation in that area as well.

Committed: The information minister said Friday’s suicide attack was the worst yet, as most of the deceased had been burnt beyond recognition. He said the Taliban, through such attacks, wanted to pressure the government to stop military operations. However, he added, the government would not stop until every last militant had been eliminated.

Pakistani army HQ Attacked.

Pakistan vows revenge after devastating blast

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Eight-year-old Amna Bibi was dressed in festive orange and headed to a wedding with her family when the car bomb exploded yesterday near a crowded market in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

A man scooped up the girl and dashed from the scene. It was too late.

"Our sister is dead," her older sister said as tears rolled down her cheeks at the hospital. "We are wrecked."

The bomb tore through a busy road in the heart of Peshawar, a city of more than 3 million. The force of the blast flipped a bus on its side, ripped apart a motorbike and flung charred debris down the street.

Pakistan has been rocked by almost weekly attacks by Islamic militants, but the sheer horror of yesterday's bombing -- which killed 49 people and wounded more than 100 -- spurred the government to declare it would launch a new offensive against militant strongholds along the Afghan border.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the militants had left the government "no other option" but to hit back into the rugged mountains of South Waziristan, part of the lawless tribal belt where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden may be hiding.

"We will have to proceed," he told a local television station. "All roads are leading to South Waziristan."

The United States has been pressuring Pakistan to take strong action against insurgents who are using its soil as a base for attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan. A push into South Waziristan could be risky for the army, which was beaten back on three previous offensives there.

But the army may have been emboldened this year by a reasonably successful military campaign in the Swat Valley and adjoining Buner district and by the death in a U.S. missile strike of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Security personnel taken hostage at GHQ: army

ISLAMABAD: Several gunmen who escaped after the attack Saturday morning on the Pakistan army HQ near Islamabad had taken some security personnel hostage and were encircled by troops, a military spokesman said.Army Spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said 4-5 militants were holed up in the security agency’s building and they had taken 10-15 hostages. ‘Efforts are under way for their safe recovery,’ said the spokesman.‘Security forces have surrounded the terrorists. We are trying to recover the hostages safely,’ he added.

NASA’s search of water on moon fails

WASHINGTON: The recent attempt from NASA to bomb moon surface in search of water has failed to achieve success as the dust appeared with the blow of rocket did not carry possible water vapors.

After gearing up for the space agency's much-hyped mission to hurl two spacecraft into the moon, the public turned away from the sky Friday anything but dazzled. Photos and video of the impact showed little more than a fuzzy white flash.

In social media and live television coverage, many people were disappointed at the lack of spectacle. One person even joked that someone hit the pause button in mission control.

Yet scientists involved in the project were downright gleeful. Sure, there were no immediate pictures of spewing plumes of lunar dust that could contain water, but, they say, there was something more important: chemical signatures in light waves.

That's the real bonanza, not pictures of geyser-like eruptions of debris, the scientists said.

The mission was executed for “a scientific purpose, not to put on a fireworks display for the public,'' said space consultant Alan Stern, a former NASA associate administrator for science.

Scientists said the public expected too much. The public groused as if NASA delivered too little. The divide was as big as a crater.

“We've been brainwashed by Hollywood to expect the money shot, like 'Deep Impact' or when Bruce Willis saves us from a comet,’ said physicist and television host Michio Kaku, who was not part of the mission. “Science is not done that way.'

GHQ attacked; Brig, Lieut. Colonel among 10 killed

RAWALPINDI : Gunmen wearing military uniforms and wielding assault rifles and grenades attacked Pakistan's army headquarters Saturday, sparking a ferocious gunbattle outside the capital that killed four of the assailants and at least six soldiers, including one brigadier and a lieutenant colonel, media reported.

Two of the attackers managed to infiltrate the heavily fortified compound, and troops were trying to flush them out hours after the initial assault, the military said. An Associated Press reporter at the scene heard four gunshots from inside the compound - long after an army spokesman said the situation was under control.

The audacious assault was the third major militant attack in Pakistan in a week and came as the government said it was planning an imminent offensive against Islamist militants in their strongholds in the rugged mountains along the border with Afghanistan.

It showed that the militants retain the ability to strike at the very heart of Pakistan's security apparatus despite recent military operations against their forces and the killing of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a CIA drone attack in August.

Pakistani media said that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the ongoing assaults strengthened the government's resolve to launch the offensive.

"We have been left no with other option except to go ahead to face them," he told a private television.

The attack began shortly before noon when the gunmen, dressed in camouflage military uniforms, drove in a white van up to the army compound and tried to force their way inside, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said.

The assailants shot at the guards at one checkpoint, killing some of them, and then jumped out of the van and ran toward a second checkpoint, he said. Abbas said the guards were likely confused by the attackers' uniforms.

The heavily armed attackers then took up positions throughout the area, hurling at least one grenade and firing sporadically at security forces, said a senior military official inside the compound. The official, who said top army officials were trapped in the compound during the assault, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

After a 45-minute gunfight, four of the attackers were killed, said Abbas, who told a private television channel that the assault was over and the situation "under full control."

But more than an hour later, gunshots rang out from the compound, and Abbas confirmed that two more gunmen had eluded security forces and slipped into the headquarters compound in Rawalpindi. The city, adjacent to the capital of Islamabad, is filled with security checkpoints and police roadblocks.

Troops were closing in on the men, he said.

Abbas said six troops were killed and five wounded, one critically. An intelligence official said eight soldiers were killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Khan Bahadur, a shuttle van driver, was standing outside the gate of the compound when the white van pulled up, and the shooting erupted.

"There was fierce firing, and then there was a blast. Soldiers were running here and there," he said. "The firing continued for about a half-hour. There was smoke everywhere. Then there was a break, and then firing again."

The gunbattle was the latest in a string of attacks on Pakistani cities, following a car bombing that killed 49 on Friday in the northwestern city of Peshawar and the bombing of a UN aid agency, Monday, that killed five in Islamabad. The man who attacked the UN was also wearing a security forces' uniform and was granted entry to the compound after asking to use the bathroom.

Death toll from Peshawar suicide car blast rises to 52

PESHAWAR: The death toll from the suicide car bombing in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar has risen to 52 after three more people died in hospital overnight, police and health officials said Saturday.

The massive blast ripped through a packed market at midday on Friday killing at least 49 people and injuring over 100.

Charred corpses were strewn in a shopping area of the city's main Khyber Bazaar, with cars reduced to burning wrecks and a city bus destroyed and flung on its side.

‘Three seriously injured died in the hospital and 15 more are in serious condition,’ said doctor Hameed Afridi, the chief executive of Peshawar's main Lady Reading Hospital.

‘We are trying our best to save their lives,’ Afridi said, adding that 47 dead bodies have been identified and handed over to relatives.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik blamed the Taliban for the attack and said it could force the army to bring forward a planned operation to wipe out militant strongholds in the northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Peshawar is the main city in the northwest and has been a frequent target of extremists linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

‘They are compelling us to launch the operation in South Waziristan early. We will take a decision on the operation against terrorists over the next few days,’ Malik told reporters in Islamabad on Friday.

It was the sixth bombing in Peshawar in four months in which 77 people have been killed. It comes as the Pakistani Taliban have vowed to increase attacks to avenge the killing of their leader Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in August.

‘Senior police experts are investigating the blast, we have got some clues which can not be disclosed at this juncture,’ Liaqat Ali, police chief of Peshawar told AFP.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ‘strongly condemned’ the bombing, expressing his government's resolve to continue action against extremists, his office said in a statement.

The military is wrapping up a fierce offensive against Taliban militants in the northwestern Swat valley launched in April.

Friday's blast is the deadliest in Pakistan since March this year, when a suicide bomber attacked a packed mosque in the northwestern town of Jamrud at prayer time, killing around 50 people.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Monday on a UN office in Islamabad, which killed five aid workers.