With women and army uniforms, militants employ new tactics
Islamist militants striking military and civilian institutions across Pakistan are employing a host of deadly new tactics that have rattled the experts as well as ordinary Pakistanis.
But that’s a difficult proposition these days as Pakistani authorities are braced for retaliatory strikes against the massive military operation in the tribal border region of South Waziristan.
Pakistan has seen a spate of deadly, brazen attacks against some of the most fortified installations in the country in recent days, including army headquarters in Rawalpindi and police installations across the country.
The latest militant attacks display an alarming new level of sophistication, with Islamist militants employing new tactics – including the use of female suicide bombers.
Earlier this month, three militants - including a female suicide bomber - attacked the heavily fortified CIA premises in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 11 people.
Police shot the woman, who detonated the explosives she was wearing, damaging part of the CIA building, according to Peshawar police officers.
The use of female suicide bombers is very rare among conservative Islamist militant groups based in Pakistan.
“If you look closely, especially at the recent attack on the Islamic University in Islamabad,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistan security analyst, referring to Tuesday’s attack which killed five people, “it show a very different pattern. The militants are ready and willing to take the war to the people. Earlier attacks were against hard targets – the police and the military. The aim was to hit at their morale without alienating the people. This one is different.”
‘The terrorists often use women’
Accompanied by a FRANCE 24 journalist with a hidden camera – since journalists are banned from filming in certain areas – Sana was not allowed to enter three police stations in Islamabad.
When asked if women are always turned away from police stations, a police officer posted at the gates of a police station explained that is was due to security reasons. “Now, the terrorists use women,” said the police officer.
The new tactics, according to Muhammad Amir Rana, an expert on the Pakistani Taliban, are extremely dangerous.
“They are very well equipped and the attacks are very well planned,” said Rana. “They strike every area and they plan for months.”
Released from jails, dressed in army fatigues, ready to attack
In the Rawalpindi army headquarters attack ,as well as an attack on the UN building in Islamabad, militants stormed the premises wearing army and police uniforms using military vehicles, according to Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
The suspected mastermind of this attack, a militant variously referred to as Aqeel or the alias Dr. Usman, was a deserter from the Army Medical Corps.
According to Siddiqa, Dr. Usman was picked up by the police in 2008 for his association with a militant jihadi group, one of a network of such groups operating in Pakistan. But, Siddiqa said, he was later released.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, Siddiqa explained that a number of militants who are detained by the authorities are subsequently released since the police are either unable to collect evidence or that evidence is not usable in court. “So they are acquitted and so you have a number of heads of these organisations and different significant people sitting in the rest of the country,” she said.
Waziris frustrated with government, in awe of Taliban
The Pakistani military’s current offensive in South Waziristan is aimed at striking at the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban, which calls itself the Terik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and especially its head, Hakimullah Mehsud.
But in the border town of Dera Ismail Khan, FRANCE 24 journalists found thousands of displaced people enraged over the government’s failure to provide adequate humanitarian aid.
Expressing his frustration, a young man swore that the Pakistani military would not be able to crush the Taliban. But he was quickly muzzled by his father, who warned that expressing any support for the Taliban would get the family in trouble.
For Pakistani experts, the local support the Taliban enjoys in the border regions with Afghanistan is particularly troubling, and does not bode well for the Pakistani government’s fight against militant Islam.