Suicide bomber kills 7 at Pakistan aeronautical complex

By Haq Nawaz Khan and Shaiq Hussain
Saturday, October 24, 2009

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- A suicide attack at Pakistan's main air force maintenance and research facility Friday killed at least seven people and injured 13, the latest in a string of insurgent assaults on the country's security forces.

The attack at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, which was carried out by a bomber riding a bicycle, was one of three blasts that killed at least 23 people and injured at least 28 across the country Friday, police said. It occurred as the Pakistani army completed the first week of an offensive to flush Taliban forces from the tribal region of South Waziristan, where officials say the recent wave of attacks has been planned.

"The stakes have become higher, and consequently we are witnessing this surge in acts of terrorism," said a statement from the office of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, who convened a meeting of top military and civilian officials Friday in Islamabad, the capital.

The morning attack at the aeronautical complex in Kamra, about 40 miles northwest of Islamabad, took place at an outer checkpost, said Fakhar Sultan, a local police official.

That was followed by a car bombing that injured 15 people outside an upscale restaurant in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Later, at least 16 people were killed in the Mohmand tribal region when the bus in which they were traveling to a wedding struck a roadside bomb planted by insurgents, a provincial official said.

The military was unable to defeat Taliban fighters during three previous invasions of South Waziristan, and the new offensive is viewed as a test of Pakistan's resolve to combat militancy, as the United States has been urging it to do.

At the meeting in Islamabad, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the army chief, said the operation is "moving ahead successfully." The military says that 20 of its soldiers have been killed while making steady progress toward capturing militant hideouts and weapons and that its forces have killed more than 140 insurgents in the region, which has been sealed off.

Taliban representatives have disputed those assertions. On Wednesday, one militant leader targeted in the offensive, Qari Hussain, told a Pakistani journalist based in the tribal region that the Taliban remained "in complete control of our stronghold areas" and that "our fighters are safe and have no problem."

Hussain, whom military officials describe as a trainer of suicide bombers, said Taliban fighters had "killed several security forces," according to the journalist, Rasool Dawar, who said he interviewed Hussain in the hills near the village of Makeen, in South Waziristan.

Khan and Hussain are special correspondents. Correspondent Karin Brulliard contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company