Bomber Kills Dozens of Pakistani Troops
A suicide bomber killed 42 Pakistani soldiers in Dargai, 85 miles northwest of Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad. The attack was immediately believed to be a reprisal against the Pakistani government for its presumed role in the recent airstrike on the madrassa in Bajur, suspected of being an al-Qaeda/Taliban suicide bomber training facility, where over 80 were killed. Bajur-area al-Qaeda leader Faqir Mohammad had vowed to strike back at the Pakistani government and army with suicide bombers after the madrassa strike.
Dargai is considered to be where the al-Qaeda affiliated Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) terrorist organization is centered.
The UK’s Guardian reports that a second suicide bomber managed to escape on a motorcycle after his own device failed to detonate. The Pakistanis are attempting to search for him.
But Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf defended the Bajur strike in a statement Wednesday addressing military commanders on the issue of security in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan, where a significant number of troops are still deployed and engaged in a counter-insurgency fight. Musharraf stood by the Bajur strike, insisting that “we had evidence that militants were being trained. There were also intelligence reports about active involvement of these militant leaders in terrorist activities.”
Some of his officers are aligned with those attacked in Bajur and elsewhere.
Pakistani Air Force officers have been arrested in the wake of the recent assassination attempt on Musharraf. It is of grave concern that of the approximately 50 individuals arrested for involvement in the attack, “many are understood to be young officers serving in the Pakistani Air Force, some of whom have access to high-security zones of the presidential offices, parliament and the intelligence service.”
Should Musharraf fall, there are likely no Pakistani generals who would survive a coup that would stand between Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the Islamist-dominated and al-Qaeda entangled Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). India has long held that the South Asian arm of al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is both responsible for the deadliest terrorist attacks in India and directly supported by Pakistan’s ISI. The fall of Musharraf would mean likely ISI access to control over Pakistani nuclear weapons.
India grows increasingly nervous as the days race by with little or no good news for Musharraf within Pakistan.