On Wednesday, media outlets reported that shots were fired at Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani‘s motorcade near Islamabad’s airport [in Rawalpindi]. Although some officials and news agencies are reporting that Gilani was not in the car at the time, [see AFP] the incident obviously shows a big lapse in security. His press secretary told BBC News, “The prime minister was coming back from Lahore. The firing took place on the Islamabad highway. At this point, we believe the firing was from a small hill on the roadside.” The news agency also cited the official statement from the PM office, which said:
Of the multiple sniper shots fired on the Prime Minister’s vehicle, two hit the window on the driver’s side. However, because of the robust and comprehensive security measures, the Prime Minister and all the members of his motorcade remained unharmed.
UPDATE [1000 EST]: Correspondent Nic Robertson reporting from Islamabad told CNN that the Prime Minister’s office currently won’t say whether Gilani was in the attacked armored car because “it is a security matter.” Three people have reportedly been taken into custody already, and Robertson reported there has been “one claim of responsibility,” although it has not been confirmed whether the group was behind the attack or not. “What is clear,” noted Robertson, “is that tensions are high here.” Because the government has escalated the fight against Taliban, the Taliban is in turn taking the fight into the cities and against government officials.” One government minister reportedly told Robertson that many officials have begun driving around in armored vehicles because they are aware that security threats have increased. [Image from the AP]
UPDATE [1130 EST]: According to Reuters, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for today’s attack on PM Gilani’s motorcade on the Islamabad Highway. The organization’s spokesman, Muslim Khan, said Gilani was attacked because he was responsible for offensives against militants in the northwest. He added, “We will continue such attacks on government officials and installations.”
What I am often curious about is how these militants “claim” attacks, especially considering that their communication apparatus is seemingly not as sophisticated as, say, the larger Al Qaeda organization, or even Iraqi insurgent groups which release attack claims and videos [proving the attack] on numerous websites, Islamist militant chat rooms, and blogs. Do these groups speak directly to news agencies or make remote calls? Moreover, how quickly after attacks occur do Pakistani militant groups release these claims?