Pakistan Says Militants Switch to 'Soft' Targets
Sat Aug 10, 3:49 PM ET
By Mike Collett-White
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (Reuters) -
Pakistan said on Saturday
Islamic militants, blamed for two raids on missionary
institutions this week, were increasingly attacking "soft"
targets, and that intelligence must improve to counter them.
The government was responding to calls for greater security
for Pakistan's three to four million Christians in the wake of
separate attacks on a missionary school and missionary hospital
in which a total of 10 people, including one attacker, died.
"The authorities must beef up security for Christian
institutions and places of worship and come down hard on those
behind these horrifying acts of terrorism," wrote the respected
Dawn newspaper in an editorial.
Pope John Paul (
web sites) condemned the attacks as "heinous crimes"
which could not be "condoned or tolerated."
Major-General Rashid Qureshi, a spokesman for President
Pervez Musharraf, said Pakistan had only limited resources to
throw at the problem, particularly with hundreds of thousands
of its troops still posted along the border with India.
"But this calls for further vigilance, for better
intelligence where preemption and prevention should take over
from tracking down culprits after the act," he told Reuters in
Rawalpindi, the military headquarters near Islamabad.
In the wake of the attacks, police have already been
briefed on how security may be improved at the major Christian
centers and communities in the populous Punjab province,
according to Lahore Bishop Alexander John Malik.
SCHOOL, HOSPITAL TARGETED
Monday a Protestant school near the resort town of Murree
was attacked by three gunmen who shot dead six Pakistanis,
including two security guards. The assailants are believed to
have committed suicide Tuesday when challenged by police.
Friday attackers lobbed two hand grenades at a crowd of
women filing out of a morning service at a Presbyterian chapel
in Taxila, killing three nurses and injuring over 30. One of
the attackers also died.
Qureshi condemned the attacks, but said they would not
deflect Musharraf from clamping down on militant Islamic
Militants are angry with the military leader for supporting
the U.S.-led war against the ousted Taliban militia and the al
Qaeda network it sheltered in neighboring Afghanistan (
His promise to crack down on Pakistan-based Kashmir (
guerrillas blamed by India for raids on its section of the
disputed Himalayan region has further alienated militants.
Pakistan backed the Taliban and continues to lend
"political" support to Kashmiri rebels, although guerrillas are
known to have been supplied and trained by Islamabad in the
"These attacks will only further cement the resolve of the
government to fight extremism, terrorism and violence, and we
remain committed to removing it from the soil of Pakistan,"
He was hopeful that the choice of two "soft" targets this
week suggested that militant groups, several of which have been
banned by Musharraf, were finding it harder to pose a real
threat to national security.
"I find a level of frustration and panic among them. They
have been universally condemned. They have now diverted to soft
targets, like schools, mosques and churches all over Pakistan."
Dozens of people, including foreigners, have been killed in
suspected Islamic militant attacks throughout the country since
Qureshi blamed arch-rival India for failing to de-escalate
tensions over the disputed Kashmir region, meaning Pakistan had
to divert resources to patrol the India-Pakistan border.
"India has tried to build up pressure on Pakistan and has
diverted most of our armed forces away from the Afghan border
and the cities," he said.