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Islamabad on red alert after Taliban threat

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Security tightened along a street leading to the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad on Friday.
Security tightened along a street leading to the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad on Friday.

‘Pro-India Afghans’ blamed for attack on Sri Lankan team

Islamabad: Pakistani authorities on Friday sounded a red alert in the capital and the U.S. embassy, the U.N. and World Bank offices suspended operations following threats from Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud to carry out suicide attacks in the city.

In Lahore, police chief Pervaiz Rathore said it had “credible evidence” of Indian involvement in the March 3 terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team here, but retracted his statement within hours, saying “pro-India Afghans” were behind the incident and the attack on a police training centre.

Almost all private schools in Islamabad closed down, though there were no specific threats to such institutions.

Security was strengthened at the houses of the President and the Prime Minister, Parliament, government offices, diplomatic missions and residences of diplomats, said Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik.

Extra police and Pakistan Rangers have been deployed to guard key installations, Mr. Malik told Dawn News channel.

Security has been tightened at the police headquarters and offices of intelligence agencies, targeted by suicide bombers in the past.

Mehsud, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief, recently threatened to carry out two suicide attacks in a week to avenge U.S. drone attacks in the country’s tribal areas.

The U.S. embassy suspended visa and consular services due to “heightened security,” said a spokesperson.

The embassy spokesperson said the services were expected to resume on Monday. The official did not give details, though the move could be linked to strict security arrangements made for Good Friday.

Reports said staff of the U.S. embassy and U.N. offices had been told to limit their movements and to stay away from busy areas.

Mr. Malik said the security plan for the Parliament building had been revamped and more security personnel deployed around it. Officials said visitors would have to pass through a specific passage to go straight to the visitors’ gallery and they would not be allowed to mix with parliamentarians or to go to Ministers’ chambers.

This was done following reports that parliamentarians could be targeted by suicide bombers at a spot near the main gate where they interact with the media, officials said. — PTI

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