Taliban Militants kill 13 near Pakistan Army HQ
Pakistan Taliban kills 13 within half a mile of army HQ
Militants launch suicide attack close to the capital hours after saying they will negotiate with the government if drone strikes end and troops are withdrawn from tribal areas
By Agencies1:59PM GMT 20 Jan 2014
A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 13 people in an attack on a Pakistani market close to the country’s army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi on Monday morning.
It follows the deaths of 20 soldiers in the north-west of the country a day earlier which forced Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, to cancel a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos in order to address a particularly violent start to 2014.
While terrorist attacks are all too common in Pakistan, it is rare for strikes so close to the army’s heavily defended General Headquarters (GHQ).
Sajid Zafar Dall, the top government official in Rawalpindi, said 18 people were also injured.
“The attack occurred when children were going to school. Our initial assessment is that the bomber was possibly on a bicycle and he then approached the target on foot,” he told reporters.
It struck the city’s RA bazaar at about 7.45am, a little more than half a mile from GHQ.
The base came under direct assault in 2009. A militant attack killed 19 people – including the attackers – as they laid siege to the headquarters for 24 hours.
Shahidullah Shahid, a Pakistan Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the latest blast and said it came in revenge for the the “Red Mosque massacre”, a military operation against hardliners in 2007 seen as the trigger for extremists to take up arms against their own government.
Two high-profile attacks in 24 hours suggest the Taliban has recovered from the death of their leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a CIA drone strike at the end of last year and will focus attention on Pakistan’s faltering attempts to tackle the threat.
Mr Sharif’s government – backed by opposition parties – says it wants to open talks with the terrorists.
On Sunday, the Taliban spokesman laid out the movement’s conditions, telling the AFP news agency it was “ready for meaningful negotiations despite facing huge leadership losses, if the government proves its authority and sincerity” by halting drone attacks and withdrawing troops from tribal areas.
With Nato-led forces ending combat operations in neighbouring Afghanistan this year, many fear Pakistani militants may step up their campaign of violence.