Taliban claims responsibility for Lahore attack

The Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on police and intelligence agency offices that killed about 30 people, saying it was revenge for the army’s current offensive against the militants.

Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy to Pakistani Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud, told the Associated Press in a telephone call that Wednesday’s suicide attack in Lahore “was in response to the Swat operation where innocent people have been killed”.

About 30 people were killed and at least 250 wounded when gunmen fired and lobbed grenades at offices of the police and top intelligence agency then detonated an explosive-laden van.

A little-known group calling itself the Taliban Movement in Punjab has also claimed responsibility for the attack.

The government announced bounties for 21 Taliban leaders in northwestern Pakistan, after blaming militants for Wednesday’s assault.

The attack in Pakistan’s second-largest city, the capital of the Punjab province, was far from the restive northwest Afghan border region where the Taliban have established strongholds in Swat and other places and have faced a month-old military offensive.

It also was the third deadly assault since March in Lahore, a major intellectual and cultural centre in Pakistan, following deadly assaults on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team and a police academy.

Officials fear militants may be choosing targets there to make the point that nowhere is beyond their reach.

A group calling itself Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, or Taliban Movement in Punjab, took the blame for the bombing in a Turkish-language communique posted on Turkish jihadist websites on Wednesday and referenced the fight in Swat, the Site intelligence group said.

The claim could not be verified, and the militant group’s relationship to the Taliban was unclear.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said militants were striking out because they were losing the fight with government forces battling to uproot extremists in the northwestern valley and tribal areas near Afghanistan.—Sapa-AP


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