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December 21, 2007
50 Killed in Pakistan Bombing
At least 50 people were killed in a suicide attack on a mosque in Pakistan today. The target was apparently a former minister in President Pervez Musharraf's government who was praying in the mosque at the time with members of his family:
The official, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, was unhurt, but his son and two grandnephews were injured in the attack. This kind of infiltration denote a level of professionalism that would seem to be beyond all but al-Qaeda or one of the other para-military extremist groups. It shows that despite the lifting of emergency rule by Musharraf, the nation still seethes with unrest. Terrorism was one reason given by Musharraf for clamping down in the first place. Might his replacement in the army, General Kayani follow his mentor's example and declare martial law if the terrorism once again threatens to spiral out of control?
The bombing was the second assassination attempt in eight months on Mr. Sherpao, who served as the country's top law enforcement official until last month. In a telephone interview, Mr. Sherpao said that the bomb exploded as he and his relatives prayed in the front row of worshipers. He said he believed that the attacker had detonated the bomb in the third or fourth row of worshipers.
"It was a massacre," Mr. Sherpao said, his voice shaking with anger. "I can tell you that."
Independent Pakistani television stations showed images of blood-spattered prayer caps and clothes scattered across a white marble courtyard outside the mosque. Trails of scarlet blood marked where the injured were dragged from the building. Dozens of pairs of shoes – those of the dead and wounded -- lay abandoned. The mosque, a modest white structure, was in the former minister's family compound in his ancestral village of Sherpao.
A local police official estimated that hundreds of people were inside the mosque at the time of the attack, celebrating the holiday with him. The number of dead was expected to rise through the day.
This is probably what the extremists want but it doesn't seem likely. Kayani is tight with Musharraf and would not supplant him without good reason. More likely would be a crack down by Musharraf who has plenty of powers granted him as president - even as a civilian - to take extraordinary action.
The elections are now just a few weeks away. Expect the violence to escalate, the terrorists hoping to provoke the state into either cancelling them or intimidating people enough so they don't vote.