Terrorist Attack Threat Brings Out Islamabad Security Forces
'Very Clear and Real Threat' of Terrorist Attacks, Says Intelligence Source
By HABIBULLAH KHAN and NICK SCHIFRIN
April 10, 2009—
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Islamabad today wore a deserted look. There wasn't the usual hustle bustle on the streets. The morning rush hour as schools began wasn't there. It is a city that, increasingly, feels like it's under siege.
Additional security forces are patrolling the capital's streets, performing snap checks of any suspicious vehicles. Frontier Constabulary forces are out in force, with RPG's and sniper rifles, guarding their own installations. The police in Islamabad have brought in horses.
A number of schools have decided to remain closed, and most parents decided not to send children to the few that remained open. Samina Khalid, a teacher and a parent, said that she got a call from the school administration where she works telling her not to come to the office. The school, she was told, had decided to remain closed due to security fears.
Ahmed, a student in an elite Islamabad school, said the administration had decided last Tuesday that the school would remain closed until Sunday for security reasons. "There are all sorts of rumors going around saying how the school will be blown up. It's a scary thought," he said.
"There is a very clear and real threat of an attack in Islamabad," an intelligence source tells ABC News. At least five suspects have been arrested from various parts of the city, according to security sources, who "intended" to carry out terrorist acts.
The U.S. embassy asked its staff not to come into their offices today. U.K. staff members have been told to limit their travel to essential movement within Islamabad. World Bank and the Asian Development Bank offices were closed today as well.
"There is intelligence that makes us concerned about more bombs going off in Islamabad," says a senior Western diplomat in Islamabad. The intelligence, the diplomat said, came from Western sources as well as Pakistani officials who have told embassies they are worried about certain vehicles entering the city. "It's a question of when you have the next explosion, not if," the diplomat said.
Taliban Promises Two Suicide Attacks Per Week
Publicly, Pakistan's interior ministry says there is no danger to schools, and if any school wishes, it can request government security.
The fear and the rumors that come with it have spiked since the chief of the Taliban Movement in Pakistan promised two suicide attacks per week. Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million dollar bounty on his head, made that threat and said he was responding to a campaign of CIA drone attacks. Since President Obama took office in January at least four strikes have targeted Mehsud and his network, a large increase in attacks that usually target foreign al Qaeda members living in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Pakistani intelligence officials acknowledge an attack can happen any time. "We do not want to take any chances," one said of the increased security in Islamabad.
Suicide bombers have struck three times in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the garrison city 10 miles from the capital, in the last three weeks.
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