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
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore