Pakistan on edge after two blasts

Government officials warn that foreign Taliban militants have infiltrated the country and could carry out more attacks.

Emilio Morenatti/AP
PAKISTAN: An Army soldier secures the area near the site of a suicide bombing in Islamabad Monday. The bomber killed himself and one police officer.

A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Pakistani cities are on high alert after a suicide attack in the capital, Islamabad, left two people dead on Monday. Despite heightened security, a bomb blast in the southwestern city of Quetta injured three on Tuesday. The Interior Ministry has warned that there could be more terrorist attacks in coming days because the Pakistan-based Taliban have dispatched foreign militants to cause havoc in major cities throughout the country.

On Tuesday, three people were injured in the bomb blast at a hotel in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, reports Dawn, a leading Pakistani English-language daily.

On Monday night, a suicide bomber attacked a police station near Sitara Market, a crowded marketplace in central Islamabad, killing one police constable, reports The Washington Post.

"The suicide bomber came on foot around 9 p.m. near the gate of the police station, and when stopped by a guard, he blew himself up, also killing the policeman," said Rana Akbar Hayat, a senior police official.
He said the police station housed the intelligence-gathering branch of the Islamabad police....
"The bomber apparently wanted to target senior police officials," [Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik] said.

Four people were also injured in the attack. According to Al Jazeera, "At least two policemen were in a critical condition following Monday's attack on a station that houses police intelligence and bomb disposal units in Islamabad."

Dawn reports that the police constable who died in the attack helped prevent more casualties.

Witnesses said constable Faysal Jan who was manning the main gate of the building intercepted the attacker when he tried to forcibly enter the premises.
'Aroused by the bomber's evasive movements, Jan rushed towards him and took him into a tight embrace,' they said, adding that the ensuing explosion blew him up, but saved many lives because his body took the brunt of the blast....
An assistant sub-inspector of Special Branch, Munir, told Dawn that the blast took place at 8:35pm when some people were offering prayers in the mosque and he was coming out. He saw the constable running towards the bomber and asking him to stop for checking. However, the attacker blew himself up when the constable overpowered him.

News of the suicide attack sparked panic across the capital, reports the Daily Times, a major Pakistani English-language newspaper.

In panic, shopkeepers closed down their shops at Sitara Market and adjoining areas, bringing commercial activities to a halt. In moments, the blast became talk of the town, people discussing it at every corner. Conspiracy theories started to pop up....
Security forces came into action and increased patrol in every part of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Rangers sealed Sitara Market. Extra police force was deployed at all entry and [exit] points of both cities....
Traffic police [diverted] vehicles from Sitara Market and put them on alternative routes.

This was the second suicide blast in a week. Last Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed 14 people and injured 10 others in Islamabad's twin city, Rawalpindi. According to the BBC, security in Islamabad had been tightened before Monday's attack owing to reports that several suicide bombers had infiltrated the capital.

The Pakistani Interior Ministry has been warning of terrorist attacks in the capital since the country's lawyers launched a nationwide protest to agitate for the reinstatement of the deposed chief justice on March 12. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the ministry is bracing for more attacks.

Last week, [Interior Minister Rehman] Malik had warned that suicide bombers planned to enter the capital during a planned protest by political foes of the government. Malik told [the Tribune correspondent] then that he shut down the city – placing cargo containers across highways to form checkpoints manned by police and soldiers – "to avoid bloodshed."
"We arrested 14 handlers and eight suicide bombers," he said [on Monday]. "That is why we were and are on red alert. We knew they would try to create terror."
He suspected the bombers came from Pakistan's tribal areas, adding: "There could be more."

Pakistani intelligence agencies warned on Monday that foreign militants are targeting urban centers, reports Dawn.

Security was tightened across the country on Monday after intelligence agencies warned that Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has dispatched 20 foreign militants, mostly Uzbeks, to carry out terror strikes in major cities.
A senior police official said agencies had warned police that the terrorists had left for Bannu on their way to Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and other major cities....
Police teams, led by SSP Operations [Chief] Yasin Farooq, were checking hotels and vehicles. He said 36 'suspicious' people had been rounded up and at least 79 motorbikes, 19 cars and two rickshaws had been impounded.

As Pakistan's law-enforcement agencies prepare for more terrorist attacks, the Obama administration is planning to increase civilian aid in an effort to curtail militant activities, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The Obama administration plans to dramatically increase civilian aid to Pakistan as part of its new strategy on Afghanistan and the surrounding region, hoping the overture will lead to more effective steps by the Pakistani military to shut down insurgent sanctuaries, U.S. officials said.
A threefold increase in civilian aid would come on top of more than $10 billion in mostly military assistance since 2001....
Under the plan, the administration would boost Pakistani civilian aid to $1.5 billion a year or more.
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