Suicide car bomb kills 12; Pakistan says it captured US Al Qaeda member
Pakistan officials said a suicide car bomb in Lahore on Monday killed 12, and also announced the arrest of a suspected US Al Qaeda member from Pennsylvania.
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Following a string of arrests last month leading to the capture of nearly half of the Afghanistan Taliban’s leadership, American and Pakistani officials said they have now arrested Al Qaeda member Abu Yahya Mujahdeen al-Adam, according to The New York Times. The Pennsylvania native became an Al Qaeda operative commanding fighters in Afghanistan.
The arrested man was originally identified as Adam Gadahn, an Al Qaeda propagandist from California and the first American to be charged with treason since World War II, Reuters reports. But US officials said they were “highly skeptical” of Mr. Gadahn's arrest from the beginning, reports the Los Angeles Times. Gadahn grew up in Riverside, Calif., where he converted to Islam in 1995. Three years later he moved to Pakistan and began working with Al Qaeda.
“In terms of who may have been arrested, the Pakistani rumor mill belched out three very different possibilities in about six hours," one US official said. "That should tell you something right there. It's by no means clear who, if anyone, the Pakistanis may have captured.”
Adding to confusion over Gadahn's arrest Sunday was the fact that on the same day he released a video calling on Muslims serving in the US armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, last year.
Pakistan's offensive against the leadership of militant Islamic groups has decreased the frequency of attacks like the one in Lahore on Monday morning, say Pakistani security officials. The suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the offices of an intelligence agency, the Federal Investigation Agency, killing at least 12 people and wounding 61 more, including women taking children to school, officials said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban and allied militant groups, according to the Associated Press. The attack appeared to target a building used to interrogate suspects. Officials say that there were no detainees in the facility at the time of the bombing, which also damaged a nearby religious school and many houses, reports The Nation.
While the deadly blast left residents shaken, Pakistani security officials say it is the first attack in the city since December, indicating that recent military campaigns have strained the Taliban and Al Qaeda’s operational capabilities. Pakistani officials said it showed the desperation of militants, The Telegraph reports.
"It shows the effectiveness of the operations in Waziristan that there have been no attacks since that time. The terrorists' base has been hit and their networks have been destroyed," Imran Ahmar of Lahore's Security Police said.
Military operations in Pakistan have caused significant damage to the senior Taliban leadership there. Most recently, a joint US-Pakistani raid led to the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy commander of the Taliban (read more on the significance of his capture).
The Monitor and other sources reported over the weekend that senior Pakistan Taliban leader Maulvi Faqir Mohammad was likely killed in an airstrike Friday.
But he has since claimed he is alive, Reuters reports.
"I'm fine. It's just propaganda," the man on the telephone who identified himself as Mr. Mohammad told Reuters. The reporter had spoken to Mohammad before and said he recognized his voice.
Many locals remained unimpressed by the confident claims of security officials. The area where the blast occurred has a high level of security to protect government facilities, causing many residents to express disbelief that a bomber could penetrate the area, reports The Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper. Other residents blamed security officials for putting them at risk by locating the offices of a national intelligence agency near the city’s residential area.
"It is really strange how terrorists managed to enter the area, which was closed for general public," one witness said.
"We have been asking the authorities to move this sensitive office out of the city's residential area but our repeated requests remained unanswered," Mohammad Saeed, an angry local resident, told reporters.