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Taliban militant denies leader’s role in Lahore raid

Video by Kate WILLIAMS

Text by Marc LELLIEVRE , Matthieu MABIN , Islamabad, Pakistan

Latest update : 2009-04-01

The leader of Pakistan’s Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has reportedly claimed Monday’s deadly assault on a police academy in Lahore. Yet among the region’s insurgents, some are sceptical of the claim.

A day after the Pakistani Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud, reportedly told the AFP he had planned the deadly assault on Lahore’s police academy, a man allegedly belonging to the group denied the claim in a telephone conversation with FRANCE 24.

“If Baitullah Mehsud had wanted to strike the Lahore region, he would have called upon us to do it,” claims the Taliban militant, who goes by the combat name of Danial and is based in the south-eastern province of Punjab, which Baitullah Mehsud’s men use as a rear-base. “We don’t know the men who carried out the attack,” he added.

On Monday, a group of men, some disguised as policemen and others clad in civilian garments, mingled with police cadets who were waiting for the academy to open to take part in a parade. Once inside the building, the attackers patiently waited for the trainees to join the formation before spraying them with gunshots. At least twelve people were killed and a further hundred were wounded.  

Danial says one of the suspects, identified by police as Hijrat Ullal, is an Afghan from the Paktia region in eastern Afghanistan. Ullal, according to Danial, is barely 20 years old and speaks neither Urdu nor Punjabi, the two languages common in the region of Lahore. Considering this, “how could he possibly have entered the academy disguised as a police trainee without arousing suspicion?” asked Danial. “Furthermore, his ethnic origins are very evident at first sight,” he added.

Just why Baitullah Mehsud would have claimed the deadly assault remains an open question. Indeed, the Taliban chief did not claim responsibility for the March 3 attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team, which appears to have been organised by the same group. By Monday evening, Pakistani police said video footage recovered from surveillance cameras had enabled them to identify at least one insurgent thought to have taken part in both attacks.

Date created : 2009-03-31