Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pakistan: Taliban 'responsible' for deadly hotel blast


Pakistan: Taliban 'responsible' for deadly hotel blast

Islamabad, 10 June (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was behind a coalition of Islamist militants who joined forces to carry out the devastating suicide attack in Pakistan's northwest on Tuesday. Adnkronos International (AKI) has learned that the Hakimullah Mehsud and the Islamist group, Lashkar-i-Jangvi and others from the Omar group conducted the suicide bombing on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar.

Sources told AKI that Mehsud thought the hotel was being used by officials from NATO and the FBI.

The hotel blast was a joint operation carried out by militants from the town of Darra Adam Khel in the North West Frontier Province and Orakzai agency, one of the tribal areas near the Afghan border.

At least 18 people including two foreigners were killed in the Peshawar hotel when a cycle rider entered through the electronic security barricade and paved the way for a car and a mini truck to enter the hotel without checking.

As Pakistani authorities were sifting through the debris on Wednesday, closed-circuit television footage revealed two vehicles — a car and a pickup truck — speeding past the security post at the hotel late Tuesday.

One attacker opened fire on the guards from the truck before it blew up, the footage showed. The truck then exploded and ripped apart the four-storey hotel.

"I did not find any sign that the Peshawar hotel was used for any NATO or FBI operations," Qudsia Qadri, editor in chief of the Daily Financial Post told AKI, who was there the day before the blast.

"I spent couple of days there. Occupancy was hardly five percent. I personally met a few foreigners at the breakfast and in the gym. Those foreigners were workers from non-government organisations who were working to help the refugees displaced from Swat and other places," Qudsia Qadri said..

Qudia was visiting Peshawar as part of a Pakistan newspaper delegation to visit the refugee camps. She stayed in the hotel for two days until the afternoon of the blast.

The hotel was located on one of the most secure roads in Peshawar as there is the Bala Hisar fort, headquarters of the Frontier Corps at one end and the residence of the NWFP police inspector general at the other.

"But one could feel fear in the atmosphere in Peshawar even before the blast," Qudsia said .

"Despite having a police escort with me I personally felt that I am in the ghost town where terror could be felt," Qudsia narrated to AKI. 

AKI earlier reported that a letter written by PALPA, an association of pilots from Pakistan International Airlines, expressed concern about the pathetic law and order situation in Peshawar and requested the management to review the flights schedules.

Eight PIA flights daily operation through Peshawar. On Tuesday, Captain Yousuf Mamsa, a PIA pilot was among dead in the hotel blast.

The PIA pilots have suspended their operations in Peshawar and all flights from Peshawar have been cancelled.

Orakzai agency does not touch any border with Afghanistan but it is situated in the middle of Khyber Agency, the route of the NATO's supply line, Kurram Agency and very close to Peshawar.

The Taliban do not exist in Khyber Agency nor in Kurram Agency nor in Peshawar.

They have established themselves very firmly in Orakzai from where they send their men and resources to the areas like Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency and to Peshawar.

The emir of Orakzai's Islamic Emirates is Moulvi Saeed but the public face of the Taliban is Hakimullah Mehsud, a relative of Baitullah Mehsud.

The Taliban of the Orakzai have very strong coordination with the Taliban of Darra Adam Khel, a town known for the local manufacturing of arms and ammunition.

Darra Adam Khel Taliban include the anti-Shia group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, the group who abducted and beheaded Polish engineer, Piotr Stanczak, in September last year, the Arif Group, Ikram Group in Kohat and the Omar Group in Peshawar.

The Tuesday blast was the joint venture of Hakeemullah Mehsud group, the Omar Group of and the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi group of Darra Adam Khel.



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