Twin blasts in Rawalpindi kills 31, injures 70
Saeed Minhas writes from Islamabad:
A chilling response to Musharraf’s on going military operation in tribal areas was given by the Islamic militants on Tuesday morning as they blew off two powerful bombs in the heart of army controlled Rawalpindi cantonment area killing 31 people and injuring over 80 people, 30 of them critically. Twenty of the dead belong to various department of Pakistan army while the rest were believed to be civilians commuting to their workplaces or educational institutions. Military officials, requesting anonymity claims that both the bombs are believed to be suicide act of young men from Waziristan agency and their prime target was military installations and personnel. Both the bombs went off within a span of 15 minutes at around 7.45 am. First one was detonated inside an atomic energy commission bus carrying army personnel and employees of sensitive agencies and has stopped to pick up employees in Qasim Market area while the other went off in R.A.Bazar, three kilometers away from the first place when a motorbike rider blew himself in the middle of a busy crossing. Director General ISPR, Maj. Gen Waheed Arshad confirmed to the media that 29 people died in the twin blasts while 60 are injured. He said that initial investigations are leading towards Islamic extremists, but investigatiors are focusing on all possible causes and groups behind this gruesome act of terrorism. The military spokesman said that no one has taken the responsibility. He said that 17 people have perished inside the bus at Qasim market while seven people died in R.A.Bazar blast. The blasts took place hardly two kilometers from Pakistan Army’s headquarter commonly known as General Head Quarters (GHQ) and at a crucial time when Musharraf is making all out efforts to avoid a imposing martial law or emergency and instead strike a deal with the exiled leaders like Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif to secure another term as President of the country while in uniform. Two major tribes Mehsud and Muhammand along with other like-minded tribal chiefs have upped their ante since this May against the Pakistan army to press Musharraf back off military from their areas and end military operations in their areas which according to these tribal chiefs have left thousands of tribal people dead since 2001. More than 60,000 army personnel are deployed in the tribal agencies of Pakistan in the wake of post 9/11US invasion of Afghanistan and they have conducted several operations in the area since then. The area has remained Muhammad and Mehsud tribes are already holding more than 280 army personnel hostage since August 29th, as they were patrolling the area and despite several political negotiations and army operations in the area, army personnel could not be freed which included army officers ranked colonels and majors besides large number of patrolling troops. These tribesmen have threatened to kill the hostages incase army was not removed from the tribal agencies immediately, an act which Musharraf cannot afford at this critical juncture of his military and political life. US, on the other hand has been asking Musharraf to go in the tribal area with more force to cleanse the area of Islamic militants and Al-Qaeda remnants who according to US state department and senate committees are not only regrouping there but have also started franchising terror networks across Asia, Africa and Europe. Under secretary of state Richard Boucher during his visit in mid August and proposed visit of deputy secretary of state Negroponte early next week (September 11 and 12) have been on record asking Pakistan to do more against Islamic militants and pointing fingers at tribal areas where they believe not only Al-Qaeda leadership is hiding but also gaining strength. Eyewitnesses and officials of the Pakistan army confirmed that both the bombs were act of suicide bombings and the initial forensic investigations have revealed that it was a homemade device with lots of pellets packed inside them that caused maximum damage and causalities. Following the twin blasts, security was put on high alert in the entire country while Islamabad and Rawalpindi was virtually cordoned off. All entry points to the twin cities were heavily guarded and no one was allowed inside Islamabad without identification. Sources believe that more suicide bombers have been dispatched from South Waziristan agency, controlled by Mehsud tribes, to all major cities. Interior ministry officials believe that Islamabad remains a very potential target of suicide bombing, therefore all sorts of traffic coming in and going out of Islamabad is being checked. Interior ministry had claimed to have arrested some extremists in the first week of this August who were believed to be behind the bombings in Islamabad and were planning to carryout some acts of terrorism during Independence Day celebrations. Investigations from these terrorists also revealed that Qasim Market and cantonment area were on their list of potential targets in August. Resultantly, government did not hold any open public gathering to celebrate 60th anniversary of Pakistan but all were held under tight security inside the halls.
Tags: Bombblast , Suicide , Rawalpindi , Army
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