Maj Gen among 40 killed as suicide attackers storm Pak Masjid
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Islamabad, Dec 4: A Major General was among the 40 people killed when suicide attackers stormed a Masjid frequented by military men near the Pakistan army headquarters in Rawalpindi spraying bullets on hundreds of Friday worshippers and hurling grenades before blowing themselves up.
Besides the Major General, who was the Director-General of Armoured Corps, eight other officers were also killed in the attack. They included a Brigadier, two Lt Colonels and two Majors. However, the Army did not release the identity of these victims.
The attackers, who used ladders to clamber over the walls of the Jamia Masjid near Parade Lane, lobbed grenades and fired indiscriminately at worshippers. They also exchanged fire with the Masjid’s security guards.
Seventeen children and 10 civilians were among those killed in the attack, army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said.
The military said at least four of the attackers either blew themselves up or were killed by security forces, while official sources were quoted as saying by TV channels that two terrorists exploded themselves in the mosque.
There was confusion over the total number of terrorists involved in the attack. Some witnesses said seven to eight gunmen stormed the Masjid, which was packed with Friday worshippers, including serving and retired military personnel, while police and army officials put the number of assailants at five to six.
Former army vice chief Lt. Gen Muhammed Yusuf was among the injured.
While the military said only four militants were involved in the attack, witnesses said they had seen six to eight assailants.
The attack came shortly after a roadside bomb targeted a bus carrying civilians in the troubled Mohmand tribal region in the country’s northwest leaving six people dead and five others injured.
In Rawalpindi, security forces, including elite army commandos, conducted a manhunt for the remaining attackers, who were believed to have sneaked into nearby residential neighbourhoods. A witness said he had seen some of the attackers exchanging fire with troops from rooftops.
The search was called off after nearly five hours when the soldiers were unable to find any trace of the militants. All roads in the area were blocked and soldiers conducted house-to-house searches as helicopters provided aerial surveillance.
About 200 people, including serving and retired military personnel, were present in the Masjid at the time of the attack.
Witnesses said the militants lobbed nearly 10 grenades before firing with automatic weapons. The firing was followed by powerful blasts. A part of the Masjid was destroyed.
“The attack was very well organised. You can’t deny that. It was a planned attack and they proceeded according to their plan. They came to kill and be killed,” said Capt (retired) Amiruddin Sheikh, a witness. The attackers were wearing white salwar kameez, he said.
The Taliban have been blamed for a wave of recent attacks targeting security forces that has killed hundreds.
In the past few weeks, the Taliban have targeted security facilities and police training centres in Lahore and the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in Peshawar.
Today’s attack occurred in a sensitive area where an army hospital and police offices are located. The army’s heavily guarded General Headquarters, which was attacked by terrorists in October, is located a short distance from the Masjid.
The attack came just two days after a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate of the Navy Headquarters in Islamabad, killing two naval policemen. Over 100 people have died in six terrorist attacks in Rawalpindi this year.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 4 Dec 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 4 Dec 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Dec 2009 00:00:00 IST
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