Expected Consequences of Red Mosque Operation

Suicide Attack Kills 24 Troops In Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 14, 2007
(CBS) This story was written by Farhan Bokhari, reporting for CBS News in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s security officials on Saturday warned against the danger of more al Qaeda-backed suicide attacks across the country, as the death toll mounted from a suicide attack in the country’s tribal regions along the Afghan border.

The attack on a paramilitary convoy in the north Waziristan region killed 24 soldiers while more than two dozen were injured, when a car packed with explosives rammed into a truck.

“This attack indicates the danger of more attacks being planned” said a senior Pakistani official in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity. The attack was linked by Pakistani officials to al Qaeda.

Earlier in the week, Ayman Al Zawahiri, the second-highest-ranking al Qaeda leader in his latest video message release, condemned Pakistan’s pro-U.S. military ruler General Pervez Musharraf for his decision to send troops to storm a "Taliban"-styled mosque in the centre of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

The lal (red) mosque and its adjoining women’s seminary known as jamia-e-hifza were at the center of months of standoff with the government after they threatened to enforce Taliban-type Islamic laws. The conflict was aggravated when the Islamists from the mosque kidnapped six Chinese women and a Chinese man in June on charges of running a brothel. The kidnapping apparently broke the patience of Pakistan’s military regime which has strived to build closer ties with China – widely regarded as the country’s closest strategic ally.

Other Pakistani officials warned of the danger of a vicious al Qaeda campaign through staging attacks to destabilize General Musharraf’s government. The warnings come as controversy rages over the death toll from the military’s attack on the mosque and the seminary. The official death toll of the militants has been put at around 80, while Islamist leaders claim hundreds died in the event.

"This bombing does not bode well for internal security conditions in Pakistan. A sustained campaign can seriously jeopardize the standing of this government," said another Pakistani security official who asked not to be named.

On Thursday, in his first television speech since the attack on the mosque, General Musharraf promised to step up his government’s campaign against Islamic militancy. He vowed to stop any further attempt to create other Taliban-style mosques in the country.

Western governments including the U.S. have supported General Musharraf in his actions but diplomats have warned that Musharraf needs to draw more support from Pakistan’s opposition politicians in order to build a popular national consensus for fighting militancy. The General faces growing opposition calls to step down and allow Pakistan’s return to full democracy, almost eight years after he seized power in a bloodless military coup.

© MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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