40 killed in attack on Pak mosque

Assailants lob grenades and open fire at worshippers in Rawalpindi

40 killed in attack on Pak mosque

A military policeman keeps guard as a car is removed from the site of a mosque attack in Rawalpindi on Friday. Reuters

A witness, Nasir Ali, said the attackers also threw grenades into the women’s section of the mosque. “I could only hear the shouting of the people. We couldn’t help each other at all,” Ali told Dawn television, describing how he hid from the attackers. “It was a hopeless situation. About 30 or 35 people were lying dead in front of me.”

The attack sent shock waves across a land battered by bombings, even as its army seeks to move against militant hideouts in the lawless tribal region along the border with Afghanistan.

As the latest army campaign has unfolded in South Waziristan, militants have increasingly struck at the Pakistani military. The wounded in Friday’s attack included high-ranking officers, both serving and retired, including a retired general along with several junior officers.

Attackers escaped

The attack took place at a mosque in the Qasim Market neighbourhood of Rawalpindi. Witnesses said the attackers managed to circumvent strict security measures in the area to launch the assault.

While the precise number of assailants remained unclear, an intelligence official said at least three attackers had escaped.

Ali said he saw two assailants clad in long white tunics girded with ammunition belts entering the mosque from either side and opening fire on worshippers, apparently indiscriminately. The mosque can accommodate at least 200 people but it was not clear how many worshippers were present when the attack took place. Pakistani news reports suggested that the attackers clambered over a rear wall to gain access.

Ali’s father, identified by Dawn television as Ameer Ali, a retired army official, said the mosque was used mainly by serving army officers living nearby, and retired military personnel could only use it if they were cleared to do so by the intelligence services.
The attack left the mosque spattered and smeared with blood on the floor and walls and the gunmen moved off to a residential area nearby, witnesses said.

Security forces immediately cordoned off the area, which is near the army headquarters and several intelligence and police installations. Army helicopters hovered above the neighbourhood.

Rescue workers rushed to the site and ferried dozens of wounded to nearby military hospitals.

ISI under control of govt: Gilani

The ISI is fully under “government control” and no one can question its “credibility” in counter-terrorism efforts, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said, reports PTI from London. Gilani also claimed that “India is increasing its role in Afghanistan.”

“The ISI is our asset for the country and they are doing everything under the control of the government. Therefore we cannot doubt their credibility. They are working under the constitution of Pakistan. They are performing a good job in counter-terrorism. There is no need (for the CIA),” Gilani was quoted as saying by ‘The Guardian’.

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