Pakistani Taliban move closer to Islamabad
The militants have extended their reach into a district just 60 miles from Pakistan's capital.
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The insurgents have steadily moved deeper into Pakistan's Punjab district, where Islamabad and some other major cities are located, over the past few months. In February, the Long War Journal, an online outlet that follows insurgencies in Pakistan and elsewhere, reported:
The Pakistani Taliban has expanded its insurgency beyond the Northwest Frontier Province after its forces assaulted a police checkpoint in a district in Punjab province.
Seven policemen were killed in the complex attack on a police checkpoint in the district of Mianwali in Punjab. The attack took place in the early morning when Taliban fighters detonated a bomb outside of what was described as an "an important checkpoint" in the region. The Taliban assault force then opened fire on the policemen, killing all seven manning the outpost.
In early March, militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in the Punjabi city of Lahore, hundreds of miles from the North West Frontier Province. Later in the month they struck a police compound near Lahore, leaving eight dead and more than one hundred wounded. The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time that the militants are growing more sophisticated as they reach into the Pakistani interior, away from the North West Frontier Province and tribal areas:
The two Lahore attacks suggest the police are outgunned and outwitted by an increasingly sophisticated breed of militants. Monday's attack suggests careful planning, down to the blue uniforms and timing during a parade of unarmed trainees.
The cricket attacks caught police flatfooted, despite official promises there would be top-notch security for the game. Instead, nearby police failed to respond in time to prevent the gunmen from casually getting away, though police on the scene did manage to protect the cricketers.
"It's a new generation of terrorists – better equipped with better planning and better coordination," says Pakistani security expert Ayesha Siddiqa. The attack "makes a case for better equipping the police and training them."
The Long War Journal writes that militant influence has spread throughout the country. A map of militant influence on the website shows that all of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which borders Afghanistan, and most of the North West Frontier Province, are under "Taliban control."