At least 20 people were killed and double that number injured in a suicide blast outside the District Coordination Officer's office in Hangu on Thursday evening; hours after the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) authorised the armed services and law enforcement agencies to use all means necessary to eliminate terrorists and militants.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack that damaged several buildings, including some government offices. According to the police, the suicide bomber did not get to the target and detonated himself at a security checkpoint.

As with all the retaliatory attacks following the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the TTP's target was a government facility. In the past fortnight, the TTP has stuck at a training facility of the Frontier Constabulary, a naval airbase and a Criminal Investigation Department building.

Late on Wednesday night, the DCC decided to launch a broadside on terrorism after Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani called for a “departure from conventional thinking”. Forced by circumstances to meet for the second time this month, the DCC decided that all arms of the government would ensure that terrorist hideouts are destroyed using all appropriate means.

However, there was no clarity on when these operations would begin and if all terrorist networks would be targeted or exceptions would be made in the case of groups like the Haqqani network that have never launched attacks in Pakistan.

This DCC was convened to take stock of the situation following the 17-hour-long siege of a naval airbase in Karachi earlier this week. Chaired by the Prime Minister, the DCC was attended by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the three service chiefs and the Director-General of the Inter Services Intelligence.

The last meeting of the DCC was less than a fortnight ago, after the U.S.' unilateral operation to kill bin Laden on May 2.

Given the embarrassment faced by the armed forces and intelligence services owing to these two incidents, the DCC sought to boost their morale by expressing full confidence in their ability and capacity to meet threats to national security.

Mr. Gilani said there was no cause for despondency but stressed the need to avert and pre-empt such attacks. He described concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan's strategic assets as unwarranted.

Maintaining that Pakistan's geo-strategic positioning impels it to shoulder responsibilities for global peace, he said “we are destined to play an important role in regional and global affairs”. At the same time, he said the challenges to national security demand a departure from “our conventional thinking” and require alternate strategies.

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