Thursday, May 07, 2009

Rogue Elements = State Covert Terrorists

Rogue Elements = State Covert Terrorists

Hunt for culprits of Lahore attack

By M Ilyas Khan

BBC News, Islamabad

Pakistani policemen stand beside a car suspectedly used by gunmen during the attack
There has been much speculation over the gunmen's identity

Who could have done it?

The video footage of the assault on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore is a stark reminder of the November attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, in which about 10 suspected militants held the city hostage for three days.

A similar number of men staged an equally audacious attack in Lahore. They ambushed the bus that was taking the Sri Lankan team to the stadium for a match with Pakistan.

Though the targets of the two attacks were vastly different, the attacks themselves were both spectacularly staged against high-value targets and made international headlines.

The style of these attacks is also reminiscent of an attack by a group of militants on the Indian parliament in the winter of 2001.

Even scores?

The Indian authorities blamed that attack - and the Mumbai assault - on a Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Grab of gunmen in Lahore

The shooting began near the Gaddafi stadium

After some procrastination, the Pakistani authorities also endorsed the Indian claim in relation to the Mumbai attacks, saying at least nine men affiliated with LeT had sailed out from its southern port city, Karachi, to attack the Indian financial hub.

It has arrested several top LeT leaders in connection with that attack.

Could it be, then, that the LeT has turned back on Pakistan to even scores?

LeT is one of a number of militant groups that are believed to have been raised, trained and funded by the Pakistani security apparatus to fight Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir.

It is generally considered to be sympathetic to Pakistani security interests in the region - and analysts doubt that it would try to destabilise a Pakistani government unless it had been given a nod from within the security establishment.

That establishment has been blamed in the past for using militants, especially sectarian outfits, to destabilise civilian governments during the 1990s.

The attack in Lahore has happened at a time when a civilian government is in power after eight years of military rule.

'Rogue' elements

The government has made some diplomatic concessions to India which the military - which considers India as the enemy - may not like.

Sri Lankan cricketers Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana
Cricketers Thilan Samaraweera (L) and Tharanga Paranavitana were injured
In addition, the air of reconciliation that was born at election time a year ago is giving way to political discord, with anti-government agitation brewing in the Punjab province, where the attack took place.

So, have the suspected "rogue" elements in the security establishment decided to rock the boat for a government that appears increasingly vulnerable to the threat posed by militants?

Some in international quarters have suggested that Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers separatist group could possibly be involved in the attack.

The Tigers have been conducting an insurgency in the northern parts of Sri Lanka since the mid-1980s and are currently losing ground to the Sri Lankan army.

In recent weeks, the Tigers have seen key towns fall to the military, prompting many to speculate that it is the beginning of the end of their insurgency.

But could the Sri Lankan rebel group make a desperate move like this one to stage a comeback?

Analysts say they are not known to have operated in Pakistan in the past, and do not have the kind of logistics and network in the region that they would require to stage an attack of this nature.

Besides, they are unlikely to blow up the entire Sri Lanka team - as the attackers tried to do by lobbing grenades under their bus - because it also includes ethnic Tamils.


Another potential suspect are the Pakistani Taleban, or Islamist militants who are conducting a bloody insurgency in the north-west of the country.

They have been blamed, or claimed responsibility, for a number of equally spectacular attacks in Pakistan in the past.

One of the groups was even accused by the government of having carried out the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

But they largely depend on suicide attacks or remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and their targets have been either state officials or members of rival sects.

Al-Qaeda, which many believe to be an umbrella organisation of most militant groups active in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir, appears to have had a role in planning previous attacks against high-profile targets in Pakistan, such as foreign dignitaries.

Many security analysts suspect its role in a number of bombings against restaurants and foreign missions in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Analysts say al-Qaeda considers an Islamic Pakistan as essential to its pan-Islamist ambitions. It has been at odds with successive Pakistani governments because of their "pro-West" policies.

Meanwhile, many Pakistani ex-military security analysts claim that Tuesday's attack might be the handiwork of the Indian intelligence service, Research and Analysis Wing (Raw).

Some of them, such as former intelligence chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul, also blame Raw for the Mumbai attacks. There is no evidence to support such a claim.

Gen Gul and others point out that both these attacks have put Pakistan in a bad light and eroded its ability to withstand international pressure in matters pertaining to its national interests.

This, they believe, is part of a plot by India to undermine Pakistan.

Pakistan has ordered a high-level investigation into the Lahore attack, with President Asif Zardari pledging that the perpetrators should be revealed.

If this happens, it would be unprecedented.

Militant attacks in all parts of the world have been investigated and solved, but Pakistan is yet to solve even one out of the hundreds of attacks it has suffered since the 1980s.


The Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing occurred on 20 September 2008, when a SECRET WEAPON detonated in front of the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, killing at least 54, injuring at least 266 and leaving a 60 ft (20 m) wide, 20 ft (6 m) deep crater outside the hotel. The majority of the casualties were Pakistanis; although at least five foreigners were killed and fifteen others reported injured. The attack occurred mere hours after President Asif Ali Zardari made his first speech to parliament. The Marriott was the most prestigious hotel in the capital, located near government buildings and diplomatic missions. It was popular with foreigners and the Pakistani elite. The hotel had previously been the target of militants. In 2007, a suicide bomber killed himself and another person in an attack at the hotel.

An unnamed senior security official stated that about 30 U.S. Marines, scheduled to go to Afghanistan, were staying at the hotel, and they were believed to be the targets of the bombing. This conflicted with information given by another unnamed official who stated that the marines were in Pakistan in connection with the visit by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen who met the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and other government officials on Wednesday The personnel were staying on the fourth floor of the hotel, which also the most severely damaged by the fire which ensued following the bomb blast. According to the Dawn, a number of the marines who stayed at the hotel sustained injuries; the newspaper also cited an unnamed law enforcement official stating "personnel of a US security agency" were in all likelihood the target of the attack. There are also reports that more Americans were present at the hotel, as several senior CIA officers were visiting Islamabad at the time of the attack and believed to be staying at the hotel, according to unnamed "well placed sources".

Claims of US soldiers breaching security

An MP for the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, Syed Mumtaz Alam Gillani, has come forward with testimony evidencing a purportedly serious security breach at the Marriott on the night between the 16th and 17th, several days before the bombing. Alam Gillani and two friends are said to have witnessed several large steel boxes being unloaded from a US Embassy truck by a group of US Marines and, according to someone at the hotel, transported to the fourth and fifth floors. Among the several people who witnessed this incident was Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sajjad Chaudhry. However, Alam Gilani was the only one who objected to and protested the apparent security breach taking place, but was met with silence from the American Marines. The hotel security staff did not respond to Alam Gilani's protests as they passively watched what was taking place, not being allowed to go near the boxes by the US Marines. Alam Gillani has since denounced the newspaper account, asserting that he was merely making light conversation with the journalist, however, the newspaper stands by its account. Pakistani authorities are also investigating this issue.

The American Embassy has said that it routinely rents rooms at the Marriott. Confronted with the activities of the US Marines on the night between September 16 and 17, embassy spokesperson Lou Fintor stated: "A team of support personnel often and routinely precede and/or accompany certain US government officials. They often carry communication and office equipment required to support large delegations, such as high-level administration officials and members of the US Congress." However, the incident occurred after Admiral Mullen's departure

Many people are of the view that a foreign power is involved in the attacks in some way

Three men, Dr Usman, Rana Ilyas and Hameed Afzal, that were arrested in Peshawar on October 17 with connection to the attack were remanded to police custody for 7 days on October 18 for questioning by an anti-terrorism court. They were suspected of having facilitated the suicide bomber. In requesting the court for a 10 day remand, the police also said they hoped to arrest more suspects with information from the three. Judge Sakhi Muhammad Kahut, who remanded the trio to police custody, also ordered police to produce them in court again on October 24.

A panel that the government had formed, consisting of police officials and experts from security agencies to probe the attack, presented a preliminary report to the Prime Minister. The Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah also admitted to the Senate's Standing Committee on his ministry that the blast was the result of a defective security system. He added that the Islamabad police chief has said intelligence agencies had informed the police about an explosive-laden vehicle entering the city to carry out an attack.[24]

[edit] Arrests

On October 23, it was reported that four men had been arrested on suspicion of "indirect involvement" in the attack, according to Islamabad police. These four are the first known arrests in relation to the bombing.

Pakistan received about $11 billion from the United States for the logistical support it provided for the counter-terrorism operations from 2001 to 2008, and for its own military operation mainly in Waziristan and other tribal areas along the Durand line, according to a report of the Asian Development Bank. The Bush administration also offered an additional $3 billion five-year aid package to Pakistan for becoming a frontline ally in its 'war on terror'. Annual instalments of $600 million each split evenly between military and economic aid, began in 2005.[143]

In 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to continue supporting Pakistan and has said Pakistan would be provided economic aid of $1.5 billion dollars each year for the next five years. Unfolding a new US strategy to defeat Taliban and Al-Qaeda, Obama said Pakistan must be 'stronger partner' in destroying Al-Qaeda safe havens.[144] In addition, President Obama has also planned to propose an extra $2.8 billion dollars in aid for the Pakistani military to intensify the US-led war on terror along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The military aid would be in addition to the civilian aid of $1.5 billion dollars a year for the next five years from 2009 onwards.[145]

In his autobiography, President Musharraf wrote that the United States had paid millions of dollars to the Pakistan government as bounty money for capturing al-Qaeda operators from tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. About 359 of them were handed over to the US for prosecution. [143]

Some have speculated that the unofficial number of Pakistani soldiers killed in action to be somewhere around 3,000 by the late 2006.

Flag of Pakistan Pro-government tribes
United States Flag of Afghanistan Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (until 2007)

Flag of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari
Flag of Pakistan General Ashfaq Kayani
Flag of Pakistan Lt Gen Masood Aslam
Flag of Pakistan Maj Gen Tariq Khan
Flag of Pakistan Maj Gen Ijaz Awan
Former commanders
Flag of Pakistan Gen Pervez Musharraf
Flag of Pakistan Lt Gen Safdar Hussain
Flag of Pakistan Maj Gen Alam Khattak
Flag of Pakistan Maj Gen Nasser Janjua
Flag of Pakistan Maj Gen A Shuja Pasha Flag of Afghanistan Baitullah Mehsud
Flag of Afghanistan Hafiz Gul Bahadur
Flag of Afghanistan Faqir Mohammed
Maulana Fazlullah
Mangal Bagh
Osama bin Laden
Ayman al Zawahiri
Flag of Afghanistan Mullah Mohammed Omar
Flag of Afghanistan Jalaluddin Haqqani
Tohir Yo.ldosh

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