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Rediff.com  » News » Pakistan's newest threat: Army officer turns suicide bomber

Pakistan's newest threat: Army officer turns suicide bomber

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September 14, 2007 12:17 IST
According to reliable sources in the local police, a Pashtun army officer belonging to the elite Special Services Group, whose younger sister was reportedly among the 300 girls killed during the Pakistan Army's commando raid on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad between July 10 and 13, blew himself up during dinner at the SSG's headquarters mess at Tarbela Ghazi, 100 km south of Islamabad, on the night of September 13, killing 19 other officers.

The incident coincided with United States Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte's visit to Kabul and Islamabad for talks with leaders and officials of the two governments.

According to the same sources, the Pashtun army officer belonged to South Waziristan, but Tarbela Ghazi is not located in the tribal belt. The SSG, to which General Pervez Musharraf belonged, was specially trained by the US Special Forces for covert operations and for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency duties.

The usually well-informed News of Pakistan reported as follows on September 14: 'The area where the incident occurred is the headquarters of the Special Services Group also known as SSG and Special Operation Task Force of the Pakistan Army. Sources said the blast was so powerful that it destroyed the Officers Mess. There are also reports that a company known as Karar of the SSG based in the area had taken part in the operation on Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad where hundreds of religious students, including religious school administrator, Maulana Abdur Rashid Ghazi, were killed. ...There were rumours that CIA personnel were also present in the area where the blast occurred.'

According to the police sources, a training team of the Central Intelligence Agency and a team of technical intelligence personnel of the US National Security Agency were also stationed at Tarbela Ghazi. The NSA personnel were reportedly running a monitoring station to intercept communications of Al Qaeda and the neo-Taliban.

While there are no reports of any American casualties, there have been rumours that the NSA's monitoring station was badly damaged. It is not clear whether it was damaged by the impact of the explosion inside the officers' mess or by a separate explosion.

Pakistani army sources initially projected the incident as due to the explosion of a cooking gas cylinder. Subsequently, they said it was caused by a remote-controlled improvised explosive device and then that it was caused by an unidentified suicide bomber, who drove a vehicle filled with explosives into the mess at dinner time.

They have not so far admitted that it was actually caused by a Pashtun officer of the SSG itself and not an outsider. No other details are available so far.

The daring attack came two days after another attack of suicide terrorism in which at least 17 people, including three security forces personnel, were killed and 16 others injured when a 15-year-old Mehsud suicide bomber blew himself up in a passenger van at Bannu Adda in Dera Ismail Khan district of the North-West Frontier Province on September 11.

The Pakistan army has not been able to re-establish its writ over South and North Waziristan, where the Mehsuds and the Uzbeks supporting them have been holding in custody 240 members of the security forces captured by them and have been repeatedly attacking posts of the army and the Frontier Corps. Repeated use of helicopter gunships by the army has not had any impact on the various sub-tribes of Pashtuns, who have been attacking the security forces almost daily.

B Raman
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