Pakistan Update

The Taliban attacked an army officer’s messhall with a suicide bomber, killing 15 SSG soldiers near Tarbela dam. From Daily Times:

At least 15 soldiers were killed and 11 injured in an apparent suicide blast at an army officers’ mess in Tarbela Ghazi near Tarbela Dam on Thursday.

Military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad said that 15 soldiers had been killed in the explosion and 11 wounded. He said the cause of the blast was being investigated, and it could have been a gas cylinder explosion rather than a suicide bombing. Another government official said the toll could rise as six soldiers were critically wounded.

However, two intelligence officials told AP that it was a suicide attack, and that the bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the canteen where dozens of commandos of the Karar company of the Special Services Group (SSG) were eating. The Tarbela facility, about 100km south of Islamabad, is the headquarters of a counter-terrorism quick reaction force.

UPDATE: Suspects in the suicide attack on the SSG have been arrested. From Pakistan Link.  Also they are probing probable Al Qaeda links.

Three suspected persons allegedly involved in blast at SSG Mess in District Haripur tehsil Ghazi have been arrested and one among them has been shifted to an unidentified location.

Talking to Geo News, the sources said the law-enforcement agencies arrested three brothers Salem, Arif and Ameer Mohammed; Salem and Arif have been handed over to police, while Ameer Mohammed has been given to the intelligence agencies.

Sources said that Ameer Mohammed has recently got retirement from SSG Zarar Company, gunpowder godown.

The sources said that the mess blast was not a suicide attack; interrogation with Ameer Mohammed is under way whether the explosives used were taken from this very godown or brought from some other place.

The sources said that SSG Mess is a sensitive area and entry of any unknown person into the area is extremely difficult.

Fifty Taliban / Al Qaeda terrorists were killed in a pitched battle at an army base in North Waziristan near the Pak/Afghan border. From the Daily Times:

Taliban militants attacked a military base near the Pak-Afghan border on Thursday, sparking a battle that drew in army helicopters and left up to 50 insurgents and two soldiers dead, Inter Services Public Relations Director General Major General Waheed Arshad said.

He said eight other soldiers were wounded in the fighting near Razmak, a town in the North Waziristan.

He said security forces repelled repeated militant attacks. Army helicopters and ground fire destroyed four rebel positions, he added.

He said the army’s initial estimate was that at least 30 militants were killed, but added later that tribesmen informed officials that up to 50 rebels had died in the military attack.

He dismissed a claim by militants that they had killed over 100 soldiers in the region in the past two days as “totally false” and “baseless”.

A militant rocket hit a transformer and power line, cutting electricity in Razmak, he said. He also denied reports from three intelligence officials who said 10 soldiers had been killed in the fighting.

One of the intelligence officials, on the condition of anonymity, told the AP that four to six other soldiers were missing after the attack on the Nawaz Fort base.

The security forces also killed around forty militants on Wednesday.

Fighting between Taliban militants and security forces has been raging across the NWFP since the army’s operation against Lal Masjid in Islamabad. Most of the combat has taken place in the rugged mountains along the Pak-Afghan border, where Pakistan’s key foreign ally, the United States, fears Al-Qaeda is regrouping.

Richard Clarke’s anti-Bush screeds play well in Pakistan, and usually get reprinted there, like this one, which is only notable in that Clarke is saying that Bin Laden is in Yemen or Somalia.

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