40 hostages freed in raid on Pakistan army base

Militants' ringleader captured as commandos end 22-hour siege

One of the most brazen militant attacks in Pakistan's history came to an end early yesterday morning when commandos freed dozens of hostages who had been held for hours in the army's own headquarters.

The 22-hour siege was concluded when troops moved in before dawn to release around 40 hostages who had been held overnight. Three hostages, two commandos and four militants were killed in the rescue, but army officials said that one of the gunmen, named as Aqeel with an alias of Dr Usman and said to be the group's ringleader, had been captured alive.

The siege had followed an assault by an estimated nine militants dressed in army fatigues and armed with automatic weapons on the army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. It came as troops prepared to launch a major assault on the Taliban and al-Qa'ida stronghold of South Waziristan, and it had international reverberations.

At a press conference in London yesterday, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, voiced their concern that such insurgent attacks presented a direct challenge "to the authority of the state". "The insurgencies that Pakistan faces are a mortal threat to that country," Mr Miliband said.

Officials had been warned to expect attacks from militants in response to the planned new assault, and the authorities had received intelligence that militants in Punjab province were planning to disguise themselves as soldiers and attack the army headquarters. As such, the assault on Saturday, in which the militants poured from a white van bearing army licence plates and shot their way into the compound, was both an embarrassment for the army and a reminder of the militants' ability to penetrate high-value targets.

Early suspicions over this incident are being cast on Taliban-linked militants from Punjab. A security official in Punjab said the captured gunman was believed to be a member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group. That group is one of several similarly minded outfits that have forged close links with the Pakistan Taliban leadership, sheltering in the mountains of Waziristan.

The Pakistan Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, said an offensive against militant targets in South Waziristan was now inevitable. "We are going to come heavy on you," he warned.

Yet recent attacks have suggested that claims that military operations and US drone strikes have broken the back of the militant resistance are misplaced. In turn, it appears that the training and tactics of Pakistani security forces remain inadequate. Rawalpindi is filled with security checkpoints and police roadblocks designed to halt such attackers en route. If it is confirmed that the militants' vehicle was bearing military plates, it would mean that army security may have been more seriously compromised.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years