Wed, Oct 07, 2009 - Page 5 News List

UN blast suggests Pakistani Taliban weathered attacks

AFP , ISLAMABAD

A suicide blast at a UN office shows a new Pakistani Taliban leadership capable of devastating attacks, analysts say, despite offensives the military believe broke the back of the organization.

Four Pakistanis and one Iraqi were killed in the bombing on Monday at the Islamabad offices of the World Food Program (WFP) when a man disguised in military uniform walked into the lobby and detonated his explosives.

The brazen nature of the attack shows both fragile security in the capital and the willingness of the extremists to target even humanitarian organizations in their bid to deter army advances into their heartland, experts say.

Military pushes against the Taliban in northwest Swat valley, an expected assault in the tribal areas and the death of rebel commander Baitullah Mehsud have enraged the hardline Islamists, they say, and they want vengeance.

“Those facing military action in the northwestern tribal regions will hit at our weak points. They will take revenge to show that they can cause maximum damage,” said A.H. Nayyar, a political and security analyst. “The US claimed that the terrorist infrastructure has been dismantled ... but this is not the case — the infrastructure is still there and continues to pose serious threats to the security of our people.”

NEW LEADER

US and Pakistani officials spoke of bitter infighting among Taliban ranks after the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone missile strike along the Afghan border on Aug. 5.

But the messy succession fight seems resolved, with new Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud appearing on local TV channels on Monday vowing “severe” attacks to avenge Baitullah Mehsud’s death.

Although there has been no claim of responsibility, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik blamed Monday’s WFP blast on the Taliban and said the bombing was the action of a wounded animal striking out after the military had “broken their back.”

But he also warned of further attacks in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where more than 2,140 people have been killed in militant strikes in the past two years, most blamed on Mehsud’s Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

“The militants held a meeting five days ago and decided to target some selected personalities and installations to bring government and the Pakistani nation under pressure,” Malik said.

SECURITY LAPSE

The bomber apparently disguised himself in the uniform of the paramilitary Frontier Corps — who guard the WFP offices — and asked to use the toilet. He was allowed to enter the building.

“This speaks of a serious security lapse in Islamabad where despite stringent security, the suicide bomber could enter the building,” Hasan Askari, a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, told reporters. “We cannot rule out the possibility of big attacks as they adopt innovative ways to beat the security system and find weaknesses in it.”

The new militant leadership was trying to deflect attention away from South Waziristan, he warned, in the hope of stalling a looming military offensive.

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