Pak Army Regains Headquarters, Hostages Freed

Pakistani commandos swarmed the country’s Army headquarters Sunday morning and rescued some 42 hostages held by gunmen dressed in army fatigues who stormed the building in a brazen attack on Saturday. Four militants and three hostages were killed in the operation, say media reports citing Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the chief army spokesman.

He said that the militants, who had taken both soldiers and civilians hostage, had been armed with explosives.

Witnesses said a series of loud explosions and gunshots were heard from the building at around 600 hours (local time), the army later announced the rescue of hostages held at its headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Media reports suggest that the army has captured at least one gunman involved in the attack, he was being identified as Aqeel alias Dr. Usman.

The attack – striking the heart of the force – comes as a major embarrassment for the Pakistani Army, and is likely to trigger concerns over the vulnerability of strategic installations in the country.

On Saturday, six people, including a brigadier and a colonel, were killed as militants broke through a checkpoint in a van. Initial reports had put the number of hostages at around a dozen.

The attack came in the midst of army preparations for a major anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan region in the country.

Two weeks ago, the army had announced plans to launch an offensive in the militant stronghold, prompting the new Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud to describe it as the militants’ main target.

Mehsud, last weekend, had said that the militants would not let the planned military offensive go unanswered. He was addressing his first news conference since taking over the Taliban – considered to be disarrayed since the death of its leader Baitullah Mehsud, in a US drone strike in August.

American military officials said they were astonished that the militants could penetrate the high-security installation to the extent that they did.

(Based on Media Reports)

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