Pakistan Security Brief
Ten killed as Taliban militants besiege major air force base near Islamabad; 20 Shias executed by militants in northwest Pakistan; Opposition politicians against new operation in North Waziristan; PPP to oppose Supreme Court if Prime Minister dismissed; militants threaten NGOs in Khyber; TTP targeting Pashtun leaders in Karachi; multiple incidents of violence in Peshawar, Mohmand, Quetta and North Waziristan.
Assault on Air Force Base
Early on Thursday morning, armed militants wearing military uniforms and suicide vests attacked a Pakistan Air Force base and aeronautical complex at Kamra, near the capital Islamabad. While the attack was repelled, a shootout between militants and soldiers raged for over two hours before Pakistani forces finally retook control of the entire facility. One aircraft was damaged in the assault. Pakistani military sources claimed that by the end of the fighting, one soldier and eight militants had been killed, while a ninth militant killed himself by setting off his suicide vest. The base’s commander was wounded in the course of the battle. Military officials denied reports that any nuclear weapons were housed on the base. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, dedicating the attack to deceased al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, took responsibility for the attack, saying militants targeted the base and its aircraft because the jets were being used to target the group’s fighters. He further claimed that only four attackers were killed after destroying three planes and killing a dozen soldiers. In the days before the attack, Pakistani media reports cited military and intelligence sources as saying the Taliban were planning a major assault on a military installation or airbase before the end of Ramadan.
According to police officials, militants in Pakistan’s northern Naran valley killed 20 Shias after pulling them off a bus heading from Rawalpindi to Gilgit. According to reports, ten to 12 assailants dressed in military uniforms stopped the bus near Babusar and checked the papers of passengers on board. After pulling off the bus’s Shia travelers, the assailants executed them. The death toll is expected to rise. The road from Babusar to Gilgit has been closed indefinitely as a result. Thursday’s incident is the third of its kind in the past six months.
Pakistan’s leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) cautioned the military against launching a new military offensive in North Waziristan, citing fears of retaliatory militant violence. The statement, coming amid reports that military commanders had come to an agreement with their U.S. counterparts on launching operations in the Taliban haven, raised fears of a militant backlash and increased radicalization if an offensive was undertaken “at the behest of foreign powers.” Head of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Imran Khan has also expressed opposition to a military operation.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Wednesday that if the Supreme Court ruled to dismiss Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf over contempt of court charges that the government would choose to contest the ruling.
Over 250 Pakistani Hindus have migrated to India in recent weeks citing reports of religious persecution inside Pakistan, including kidnappings, lootings and forced conversions to Islam. The migrants traveled to India on pilgrimage visas granted by India. Pakistan has over 2.7 million Hindus among its population of 180 million. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari appointed a three-member Senate committee to “instill a sense of security” and investigate reports of harassment against Hindus.
TTP militants on Tuesday distributed leaflets in Khyber agency threatening non-governmental organizations (NGO) and cell phone dealers to shut down their operations in a week or “face the consequences.” The leaflets accused the NGOs of spreading obscenity and liberalizing society. Elsewhere, a civilian was killed and four soldiers injured when militants attacked a checkpost in Halimzai sub-district of Mohmand agency on Wednesday. The attack was reportedly repulsed. On Wednesday, police reportedly recovered six bodies dumped in sacks in three separate places in the city of Peshawar on Wednesday. The cause for the killings is unknown.
Pakistani security forces on Tuesday night reportedly began “indiscriminate” mortar and artillery fire on “residential areas” in Miram Shah, the administrative center of North Waziristan agency, after unknown assailants targeted military installations with rocket fire. The firing continued for three hours, but no casualties were reported.
The Express Tribune reports on the killing of several Pashtun leaders in Karachi, particularly those who fled to Karachi to escape Taliban persecution in northwest Pakistan. According to the report, members of the TTP, particularly the TTP Swat, have been targeting and killing Pashtuns who helped the military against the Taliban during an anti-TTP offensive in the Swat valley in 2009. According to a report, the targeted killings started in May 2010, and over 60 people have been killed since.
A security guard was killed and eight others injured when a bomb planted at a hotel went off on Wednesday night in Quetta, Balochistan. On Thursday, three men were killed after unknown gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in Quetta. There have been no claims of responsibility so far. Elsewhere in Quetta, two police officers were killed and five others injured when unknown militants fired on a van carrying cash that was escorted by police personnel.
Declan Walsh, “Militants Attack Pakistani Air Force Base,” New York Times, August 16, 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/world/asia/pakistani-air-force-base-with-nuclear-ties-is-attacked.html?_r=1&ref=asia
“PTI against the military operation in NW: Imran Khan,” Dawn, August 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/08/16/pti-against-the-military-operation-in-nw-imran-khan/
“Police recover six more bodies in Peshawar,” The News, August 16, 2012. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-16842-Police-recover-six-more-bodies-in-Peshawar
“Three gunned down in Quetta,” Dawn, August 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/08/16/three-gunned-down-in-quetta/
“Two police officers killed, 5 others injured in Quetta,” Dawn, August 16, 2012. Available at http://dawn.com/2012/08/15/two-police-officer-killed-5-others-injured-in-quetta/