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A Pakistani brigadier was killed Thursday morning by motorbike-riding assailants who sprayed his vehicle with bullets amid heavy Islamabad traffic. It appeared to be the first such targeted attack on a high-ranking Army official in the South Asian country, which has been rocked by violence lately amid a stepped-up offensive by Taliban insurgents.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assassination, in which a soldier was also killed. The Pakistani Taliban have said they were behind other recent attacks, including a siege on the military's headquarters.
Brigadier Moinudin Ahmed was leading a Pakistani unit attached to the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, and had returned to Islamabad on a visit, reports the Pakistani daily Dawn. He was riding in an unarmored jeep, the common form of transport for military officials in the capital, where until now they have been able to move freely, says The New York Times.
It was unclear whether the attack was direct retaliation for the Army's offensive in South Waziristan, where some 30,000 troops are attempting to rout a force of about 12,000 Taliban fighters. That effort has displaced tens of thousands of residents in the region who are becoming increasingly frustrated, reports The Christian Science Monitor.
"We feel this is a war against our whole tribe," says Aslam Khan, an elderly Mehsud tribesman who arrived from the town of Sararogha two weeks ago and is attempting to register himself and nine members of his family to ensure they are eligible for aid.
Hundreds of men like him show up every morning at the city's five refugee registration points on behalf of their extended families (one man appeared to register 33 relatives). But many are turned away after hours of waiting and told to return the next day by inundated authorities. On Wednesday, fresh registrations were halted due to a shortage of forms.
Sporadic attacks far from the battle zone are gripping the nation with fear. The BBC reports that the Tuesday bombings at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, which left eight dead and at least 18 wounded, have led to school closures nationwide. Threatening calls placed to schools and colleges in Lahore have upset residents, reports Dawn.
However, the police said a majority of such calls were 'prank....'
After the [International Islamic University in Islamabad] attacks, local police officers visited famous universities, including the Punjab University (PU) and the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), and asked their managements to improve security. Police sources told Dawn that some unidentified people phoned two leading universities on Jail Road and a renowned school-cum-college on The Mall and threatened to blow up the buildings.
A similar call was also received by a media organisation and a threatening letter by the administration of the Lahore Press Club.
As concerns rise that Pakistan could be destabilized by the Taliban, the local Daily Times says in an editorial that the attack on an institution of Islamic learning may have cost the group support and exhibited its "increasing desperation."
The TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) may be about to lose the support at campuses where most students tended to look at them positively and were in favour of "talks" with the Taliban.... A glimpse of this was offered by the Punjab University where the vice-chancellor led a march of protesting boys and girls against Tuesday's outrage at the Islamabad Islamic University.
The terrorists have gradually abandoned the broad support they had among the largely conservative majority of Pakistan's population. By doing what they did in Swat they proved that it was a deliberate act. From a majority of those who accepted the "cause" of the Taliban, the country now has a minority that would still support the so-called "Islamic enterprise" their leader Hakimullah [Mehsud] has announced from South Waziristan. This is the moment when the resolve to face up to the challenge of terrorism should become even stronger.