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Omar Waraich: This vile attack will repel the public but the bloodshed will continue


Just as Pakistan's army was hailing a flurry of successes against the Taliban in its mountainous stronghold of South Waziristan, the militants show they can strike yet again in the heart of the military establishment. In a shocking attack, the attackers were able to breach elaborate security fortifications, mere weeks after the army had endured an embarrassing 22-hour siege and hostage crisis along the same road.

Despite apparent gains made in the wild tribal areas along the Afghan border, the storming of a mosque deep inside a residential compound for serving and retired military officers demonstrated the militants' ability to mount sophisticated attacks.

The failure to staunch such attacks will inspire little confidence in a country where some 400 people have been killed in the current wave of terrorist outrages. The question many are asking is: if the army cannot protect itself, how will it protect ordinary citizens?

But at the same time, such a vicious attack, targeting families in a mosque moments after they finished Friday prayers, the most sacred time of the week for religious Muslims, will deepen public hostility toward Taliban brutality.

Even with that support, however, pressure will build on Islamabad to crack down harder against the perpetrators. While the army has displayed fresh resolve against the Taliban, first in Swat and now in South Waziristan, it faces a devilishly elusive enemy.

While the army has pushed deeper into territory that it failed during recent years, the Taliban have spilled out of South Waziristan, and are believed to be skulking in North Waziristan or other parts of the tribal areas beyond the scope of the current operation.

The fear is that unless the government can come up with a coherent counter-terrorism strategy that chokes off the militants' ability to strike in the heartlands, and until the army manages to eliminate the leadership and its bases in the mountains, such attacks will continue.