Dozens killed in fresh Pakistan attacks

Teams of gunmen attacked three security sites today in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore while a suicide bomber hit a northwestern town, killing a total of 31 people. The strikes were part of an escalating a wave of terror aimed at scuttling a planned offensive into the militant heartland on the Afghan border.

One of the attacks, on a commando training facility on Lahore's outskirts, continued into the afternoon as security forces scoured the area for fugitive assailants.

The assaults paralyzed the cultural capital of this nuclear-armed U.S. ally, showing the militants are highly organized and able to carry out sophisticated, coordinated strikes against heavily fortified facilities despite stepped up security across the country.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, though suspicion fell on the Taliban who have claimed other recent strikes. The attacks Thursday also were the latest to underscore the growing threat to Punjab, the province next to India where the Taliban are believed to have made inroads and linked up with local insurgent outfits.

President Asif Ali Zardari said the bloodshed that has engulfed the nation over the past 11 days would not deter the government from its mission to eliminate the violent extremists, according to a statement on the state-run news agency.

"The enemy has started a guerrilla war," Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. "The whole nation should be united against these handful of terrorists, and God willing we will defeat them."

The wave of violence halted activity in Lahore. All government offices were ordered shut, the roads were nearly empty, major markets did not open and stores that had been open pulled down their shutters.

The violence began just after 9 a.m. when a group of gunmen attacked a building housing the Federal Investigation Agency, a law enforcement branch that deals with matters ranging from immigration to terrorism.

"We are under attack," said Mohammad Riaz, an FIA employee reached inside the building via phone by The Associated Press during the assault. "I can see two people hit, but I do not know who they are."

The attack lasted about 1 1/2 hours and ended with the death of two attackers, four government employees and a bystander, senior government official Sajjad Bhutta said. Senior police official Chaudhry Shafiq said one of the dead wore a jacket bearing explosives.

Soon after that assault began, a second band of gunman raided a police training school in Manawan on the outskirts of the city in a brief attack that killed six police officers and four militants, Lahore police chief Pervez Rathore said. One of the gunmen was killed by police at the compound and the other three blew themselves up.

The facility was hit earlier this year in an attack that sparked an eight-hour standoff with the army that left 12 people dead.

A third team of at least eight gunmen scaled the back wall of an elite police commando training center not far from the airport and attacked the facility, Rathore said. Senior police official Malik Iqbal said at least one police constable was killed there.

Lt. Gen. Shafqat Ahmad said five attackers were slain in a gunbattle and suicide blasts in the facility.

Television footage showed helicopters in the air over one of the police facilities and paramilitary forces with rifles and bulletproof vests taking cover behind trees outside a wall surrounding the compound. Rana Sanaullah, provincial law minister of Punjab province, said police were trying to take some of the attackers alive so they could get information from them about their militant networks.

Officials have warned that Taliban fighters close to the border, Punjabi militants spread out across the country and foreign al-Qaida operatives were increasingly joining forces, dramatically increasing the dangers to Pakistan. Punjab is Pakistan's most populous and powerful province, and the Taliban claimed recently that they were activating cells there and elsewhere in the country for assaults.

In the Taliban-riddled northwest, meanwhile, a suicide car bomb exploded next to a police station in the Saddar area of Kohat, collapsing half the building and killing eight people, including police and civilians, police official Afzal Khan said.

"We fear that some policemen are trapped under the rubble," he said.

The U.S. has encouraged Pakistan to take strong action against insurgents who are using its soil as a base for attacks in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are bogged down in an increasingly difficult war. It has carried out a slew of its own missile strikes in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt over the past year, killing several top militants including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

One suspected U.S. missile strike killed four people overnight Thursday when it hit a compound in an area in North Waziristan tribal region where members of the militant network led by Jalaluddin Haqqani are believed to operate, two intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Pakistan formally protests the missile strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but many analysts believe it has a secret deal with the U.S. allowing them.

The militants have claimed credit for a wave of attacks that began with an Oct. 5 strike on the U.N. food agency in Islamabad and included a siege of the army's headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi that left 23 people dead.

The Taliban have warned Pakistan to stop pursuing them in military operations.

The Pakistani army has given no time frame for its expected offensive in South Waziristan tribal region, but has reportedly already sent two divisions totaling 28,000 men and blockaded the area.

Fearing the looming offensive, about 200,000 people have fled South Waziristan since August, moving in with relatives or renting homes in the Tank and Dera Ismail Khan areas, a local government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable