Deadly Attacks Escalate In Pakistan

Militants staged a dramatic attack Thursday in Pakistan, striking the city of Lahore in three locations — all police facilities — simultaneously. There were explosions in other cities around the country as well. Today's violence adds to a stream of deadly attacks by militants in Pakistan as its army prepares to enter the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

We still do not know how Pakistan's military will move against militant strongholds on the border. We do know that militants are increasing their assault on some of the strongholds of Pakistan. Earlier today, they attacked in Pakistan's cultural capital, Lahore, hitting three spots associated with the police. And that is just one of the Pakistani cities that was hit today, as we're going to hear from NPR's Julie McCarthy. She's in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. And Julie, what happened in Lahore?

JULIE MCCARTHY: Well, in Lahore today, there was a remarkable set of well-orchestrated attacks, three simultaneous assaults on various law enforcement agencies. Arguably, the boldest was the militants climbing a wall to attack the elite force command training center. Officials say that five of the militants who were dressed in police uniforms stormed their way onto the compound of this command center. The recruits there are trained to repel precisely the sort of attack that struck the complex today. And the major general whose troops neutralized this siege said that snipers, acting quickly, killed two of the militants while the other two - or, the other three blew themselves up. Then the Federal Investigative Agency was attacked. The FIA officials have been killed in that assault, along with four militants. It was second assault on that building in - or on that agency in 18 months. And finally, a third attack in Lahore had four extremists attempting to lay siege to a police academy. Four were killed, but not before blowing up six policeman.

INSKEEP: Boy, when you hear about an attack on this elite force command academy where people are being trained to go after militants like this, you have them not only striking directly at people they perceive as their enemies, but also, it seems, attacking the credibility of the Pakistani authorities. They can't even protect their own is the message here, I guess.

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, yeah. The country seems to feel very vulnerable, and analysts are saying that's exactly how the militants want the country to feel. Throw it into panic, undermine the confidence in the government, forestall this planned offensive against them that you mentioned in South Waziristan. And there's a great deal of discussion today about how the nation needs to mobilize, and there are calls to rethink the entire security strategy that's been kind of shaken almost daily here. But, you know, what all of these demonstrate - these attacks, certainly, in Lahore and another one in Peshawar - coming on the heels of the army headquarters siege is the penetration of the militancy. It's not just a problem in the lawless border areas or in the Swat Valley. It appears to be a bigger and much deeper problem than that.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about some of those other attacks. There was a suicide bombing in Kohat, Pakistan today, and you mentioned something in Peshawar. What happened there?

MCCARTHY: Just a short time ago, there was a large explosion that shook the city. Television images from Peshawar showed the charred remains of a car parked in an alley that's believed to have carried a bomb that's demolished a three-story building. Now, the police chief said it was a remote-controlled device. This is unfolding here, and there are conflicting reports about who may be the target, but security officials are focusing on a man named Shah Jehan(ph). He's the driver of the chief minister of the North-West Province. Peshawar is the capital of the North-West Province. Now, a school in this same residential area took some of the blast. Children are said to be among the seven people injured. One child is reported to have been killed. But again, we've seen the militants operating with deadly effect in what's been a disturbing string of attacks that's put the country on high alert.

INSKEEP: Julie, thanks very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Julie McCarthy, reporting on a string of attacks today in Pakistan.

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