Pakistan terrorists target more civilians in 2009
New report says Islamist militant strikes in Pakistan rose 45 percent in 2009, with a total of 2,586 attacks. Eighty-seven of the terrorist attacks were suicide bombers. As the year ended, more of the attacks targeted civilians.
Pakistan suffered its worst year of terrorist violence last year, with more than 3,000 people killed, as Islamic insurgents, some of them allied with Al Qaeda, targeted civilians and destabilized the country, according to a new report.Skip to next paragraph
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The tally compiled by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, a research organization based in Islamabad, found that terrorist attacks killed 3,021 people and injured 7,334 in 2009. There were 87 suicide bombings amid 2,586 terrorist strikes, a 45 percent increase over the previous year.
Pakistani extremists had been careful to limit their targets to the police and military but toward the end of 2009 they began to hit civilian targets, including Islamabad's International Islamic University and markets in the cities of Lahore and Peshawar.
"The most important trend to emerge was attacks on soft targets," said Abdul Basit, a researcher at PIPS. "The distinction between combatants and non-combatants is gradually disappearing."
The violence far outstripped the bloodshed in neighboring Afghanistan, and the mounting terrorist challenge in Pakistan underscored what appear to be growing ties among Arab, Afghan, Pakistani and other militant groups as Al Qaeda leaders try to relieve the pressure on their refuge along the Afghan-Pakistani border and generate friction between the US and its allies by launching attacks elsewhere.
The attacks in Pakistan, for example, could prompt Pakistani officials to concentrate on the domestic threat and continue to resist the Obama administration's demands that they start attacking Afghan insurgents based in Pakistan.
"What we are seeing in this region is a fusion of (extremist) interests and ideologies. The overriding ideology is that of Al Qaeda," said Imtiaz Gul, the author of "The Al Qaeda Connection. "It is al Qaeda that's connecting people . . . . But can you take them all (extremist groups) on in one go? That's Pakistan's dilemma."
Pakistani forces last year launched their first concerted military response to Islamic extremism since the country sided with the U.S. following the 9/11 attacks, killing 7,945 terrorists, according to the PIPS study.
US unmanned American drone aircraft unleashed at least 51 missile strikes on Pakistani-based extremists, and the study found that the drones killed 667 people and injured 310 — but casualty figures for the strikes vary widely and are considered unreliable.