This is where I spent my last holiday. On my way home from Turkey, I went via Pakistan to visit with MD who is posted at Staff College in Quetta for the year. He’s set to come home in days… literally he has about 5 days to go before he ships out and comes back to the first world. Over the last few months, and particularly since the Red Mosque siege in July, he’s been telling me alarming stories about bombs going off in the middle of the night and the stories have gotten increasingly close to home… home being Street 4 on the Cantonment. We were in security lockdown while I was there, and I imagine that level of security pales into insignificance compared to what he’s experiencing at the moment, as this is the worst and closest one yet – these actually went off inside the cantonment. The checkpoints in questions are about as far away from MD’s house as my local shop, which is way too close for comfort if you ask me.
Suicide bombs rock Pakistani city
Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 14:35 GMT
At least eight people including five soldiers have died in two suicide bombings in the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta, officials say. Emergency personnel at the scene of the blasts told the BBC that 18 people had been injured. They said the bombs went off near two checkpoints close to a military area on the outskirts of the city. Officials said many of the injured were in a critical condition and were being taken to hospital.
The army has been frequently targeted in suicide attacks
Bombings and shootings
“A suicide bomber blew himself up at the checkpost and a little later, when some civilian vehicles gathered at the spot, another suicide bomber blew himself up,” military spokesman Maj Gen Waheed Arshad said. “This is the first time that a suicide attack has taken place in this part of the city,” he told a private television channel. “There were two people involved in the attack.” Maj Gen Arshad said that the bodies of the bombers had been recovered. Officials said the area had been sealed off by the security forces.
Correspondents say it is not clear who is behind the attacks, which come just two days before President Musharraf is due to lift the state of emergency which he imposed last month. The president argued the measure was in part necessary to curb Islamic militancy which he said was destabilising Pakistan.
The army has been frequently targeted in suicide attacks since July, when President Musharraf ordered troops to raid the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad that had been occupied by militants. More than 100 people were killed in the fighting, most of them militants. Quetta – which is close to the Afghan border – has regularly been hit by bombings and shootings.
Earlier this year a captured Taleban spokesman allegedly told Afghan intelligence that the Taleban leader, Mullah Omar, was living in the city under the protection of Pakistan‘s ISI intelligence agency.
Correspondents say that there are regular reports of Taleban insurgents operating in the province of Balochistan – of which Quetta is the capital – despite the government’s denials. In February, police said that at least 15 people were killed in a suicide attack in the city. Earlier this month there was also a bomb at an Islamic religious school in Balochistan, which officials said killed six people.
Balochistan has also been hit by a low-key insurgency waged by Baloch nationalists seeking greater autonomy. Two weeks ago top Baloch militant leader Balaach Marri was killed, allegedly by the security forces. This has led to an increase in attacks on the security forces. But observers believe the mode of the latest attack rules out the involvement of the rebels and that pro-Taleban militants are the main suspects.
The Taleban have always enjoyed some support in Quetta