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Terrorism & Security

Motorbike suicide bombing hits Pakistan as al Qaeda raises profile in tribal belt.

Intelligence reports find that al Qaeda may be using the region to launch more sophisticated terror attacks.

By David Montero / February 4, 2008

Rawalpindi: Pakistani security officials examine a damaged minibus at the site of a suicide bombing Monday. As suicide bombings continue to rack Pakistan, more evidence is emerging of Al Qaeda’s open presence in the country’s tribal belt.

Anjum Naveed/AP

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As suicide bombings continue to rack Pakistan, more evidence is emerging of Al Qaeda's open presence in the country's tribal belt. That comes at a time when the country's military continues to be attacked, raising US concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and the possibility of the region becoming a launching pad for terrorist operatives.

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Yesterday, a suicide bomber struck a military target in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the military, the Associated Press reports:

A suicide bomber on a motorbike rammed into a minibus carrying security personnel, detonating a blast Monday that killed at least six people and wounded more than 30 in the latest attack in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi, officials said.
The bus was destroyed during the blast on a road running through a bazaar near the offices of the army's National Logistics Cell, said Bisharat Abbasi, the local police chief....
In recent months there have been a series of suicide bombings in Rawalpindi, a city where the army has its headquarters, about seven miles from the capital, Islamabad. President Pervez Musharraf also stays in the city, and he was in his office several miles from the scene at the time of the blast.

Since the Dec. 27 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the US has increased public pressure on Pakistan to fight terrorists, an offer Pakistan has so far rebuffed. Recent attacks appear to indicate that Al Qaeda operatives operate openly and may use the region as a base for terrorist attacks against Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a wanted Al Qaeda operative may be alive and well in Pakistan, despite reports last year that the operative had been killed by a US Predator drone in the tribal belt, near the border of Afghanistan.

Recent intelligence shows that Abu Khabab, 54, is training Western recruits for chemical attacks in Europe and perhaps the United States, just as he did when he ran the "Khabab Camp" at Al Qaeda's sprawling Darunta training complex in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region before the Sept. 11 attacks, according to one senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the CIA's intelligence is classified...
Abu Khabab, whose real name is Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, is believed to have set up rudimentary labs with at least a handful of aides, and to have provided a stable environment in which scientists and researchers can experiment with chemicals and other compounds, said several former intelligence officials familiar with Al Qaeda's weapons program....
[Officials] say Al Qaeda has regenerated at least some of the robust research and development effort that it lost when the U.S. military bombed its Afghanistan headquarters and training camps in late 2001, and they believe it is once again trying to develop or obtain chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons to use in attacks on the United States and other enemies.
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