Islamabad: Pakistani authorities now believe a dangerous new militant group, out to avenge a deadly Army assault on a mosque in Islamabad three years ago, has carried out several major bombings in the capital previously blamed on the Taliban.
The emergence of the Ghazi Force was part of the outrage among many deeply religious Pakistani Muslims over the July 2007 attack by security forces against the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, a stronghold of Islamic militants.
The fierce attack, in which scores of young, heavily armed religious students died, inspired a new generation of militants. These Pakistanis have turned against a government they felt has betrayed them and, to their dismay, backed the US role in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The brief but bloody history of the Ghazi Force illustrates the unintended results of Pakistan`s policy of promoting Islamic extremists to fight India in the disputed area of Kashmir. That policy — which Pakistan denies it pursues — now threatens regional stability as the US and Pakistan`s other Western partners pour billions of dollars into the country to stop the rise of Islamic militancy.
The new group is made up of relatives of students who died in the Red Mosque assault. It is named after the students` leader, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was also killed. The mosque`s adjacent religious school, or madrassa, had been a sanctuary for militants opposed to Pakistan`s support of the US-run war in Afghanistan.
Private television stations broadcast vivid scenes of the assault — commandos in black fatigues repelling down ropes, the crackle of gunfire, bodies of black-shrouded girls carried out through the smouldering gates. Those images stunned the nation, especially families of the students and Pakistanis with deep religious feelings.
Islamabad`s inspector general of police, Kalim Imam, said that the Ghazi Force was behind most of the deadliest attacks in the capital during the last three years. The attacks targeted the military, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency or ISI — which had ties to a number of militants — and a five-star hotel frequented by foreigners and the Pakistani elite.