On Thursday morning [9:15 am PST], media agencies reported that gunmen dressed in police uniforms targeted three law enforcement agencies in Lahore – the Federal Investigative Agency on Temple Road, the Manawan Police Academy, [the site of a previous militant attack, see related CHUP post], and the Elite Force Training Institute on Bedian Road. According to the NY Times, at least 30 people were killed, including 19 police officers and at least 11 militants. A suicide bomber also attacked a police station around the same time in the northwestern city of Kohat, killing 10 people. Later on Thursday, news agencies reported that a car bombing occurred near a school in Peshawar, killing at least one person and injuring five.
Army rangers were reportedly deployed across Lahore. According to Dawn News, five gunmen entered the FIA building firing gunshots. While the building was cleared by police forces after an hour and a half [Dawn reported that no quick response forces were on the scene], media outlets noted that there were ten casualties in the attack, including three government officials, FIA employees, and a police officer. One attacker has reportedly been taken into custody, [news agencies report that a suicide vest was recovered from the scene]. Interior Minister Rehman Malik told news agencies that the “situation is under control. There is no reason to panic…all four provinces are on red alert.”
Gunfire finished soon after at the Manawan Police Academy, where nine police officers were killed and over a dozen were injured. Four militants were also killed in this assault, reported the Associated Press – three who blew themselves up, and one who was killed by police. Meanwhile, news agencies reported that eight gunmen attacked the Elite Training Institute, in an attack that Dawn reported, “lasted into Thursday afternoon before security forces killed the five attackers and freed a family they were holding hostage.” GEO News reported that a police officer was killed in the standoff, and nine others were injured. Five militants were reportedly killed.
GEO quoted Rehman Malik, who said the attackers are mercenaries “who are working for money.” However, much like Saturday’s brazen attack on the military’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, when 10 gunmen disguised as soldiers had a 22-hour standoff with Army commandos, suspicion has fallen on the Tehreek-e-Taliban. The incidents were likely carried out by militants in Punjab, who are aligned with the TTP and unified against the state, [see past CHUP Post on the Punjabi Taliban]. This theory is further supported by the fact that these groups have tremendous reach into Pakistan’s main cities and their power base is in Punjab province. The Associated Press noted in its coverage, “Officials have warned that Taliban fighters close to the border are increasingly joining forces with Punjabi militants spread out across the country and foreign Al Qaeda operatives, dramatically increasing the dangers to Pakistan.”
While the details are still being reported, Thursday’s coordinated attacks are yet another attempt to target Pakistan’s police forces and undermine the state’s security apparatus prior to the Army’s “imminent” ground offensive in South Waziristan. The fact that three coordinated attacks could take place in three different parts of Lahore amid heightened security is a scary, scary thing, particularly since an official at Punjab’s main intelligence agency told reporters “they had precise information about expected attacks on security targets and alerted police this week, but the assailants still managed to strike.” Moreover, two of the targets – the FIA and the Manawan Police Academy – were hit before. Should the government focus on preventing such incidents or merely plug the holes as fast as possible?