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Central & South Asia
Pakistan Taliban claims Lahore raid
Group warns of continued violence and threatens attack on US capital.
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2009 21:51 GMT
Mourners said prayers on Tuesday for those
killed in the attack [AFP]

The leader of Pakistan's Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack on a police academy in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

Baitullah Mehsud said on Tuesday that his group carried out the attack, which left at least eight policemen dead, and vowed to launch an attack on Washington DC, in the US.

"Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world," The Associated Press reported Mehsud as saying.

A report from the Reuters news agency quoted Mehsud as saying: "We wholeheartedly take responsibility for this [the Lahore] attack and will carry out more such attacks in future."

He said the attack on Monday was "revenge for the [suspected US] drone attacks in Pakistan".

Police attacked

At least 100 people were injured in the Lahore attack, which only came to and end when security forces arrived to overpower the fighters.

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Security officials said at least four of the attackers were killed and at least three were seized.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, said that the fighters involved in the attack came from the southern province of Waziristan, which is the stronghold of Pakistan's Taliban and said to be a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, and that one of them men captured was an Afghan.

Rashid Qureshi, a Pakistan security analyst based in Islamabad, said that the attack had reflected badly on Pakistan's government.

"This is definitely a big embarrassment for the government and also for our intelligence agencies and security apparatus that ... the capital of the largest and most prosperous province of Pakistan [the Punjab] was held hostage for eight hours and what was attacked was a law enforcement agency," he told Al Jazeera.

Taliban forces

Mehsud, who has a $5m bounty on his head from the US,  leads the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Movement of Taliban Pakistan, a loose umbrella group of factions which has carried out attacks across the country.

The US says the group sends fighters across the border to fight Western forces in Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Lahore, said: "Pakistan has been saying all along that the problems within its territory are a direct consequence from the escalation of the war in Afghanistan where Nato and US fores say they face an up hill task.

"Whenever there is conflict in Afghanistan, it has a direct consequence on Pakistan because of the continuity of the tribes living on both sides of the border."

Funeral prayers were said for the dead on Tuesday, with security forces deployed on rooftops around the Lahore compound to ensure security.

The Lahore attack came less than a month after a dozen gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team in the city, killing six police guards and a bus driver.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's supreme court suspsended a court ban on Tuesday barring Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), and his brother Shahbaz from holding elected office and restored their government in Punjab.

A statement released from the office of Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, said he "hoped that with today's decision, all political forces in the country would work towards greater political reconciliation." 

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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