NEWS

Pakistan Shuts Down Schools After Suicide Bombings, Increases Security Amid Terrorism Fears

By Matthew Harwood

The Pakistani government has closed the country's schools to protect educational institutions after twin suicide bombings ripped through the International Islamic University (IIU) in the capital city of Islamabad on Tuesday. The suicide bombings are believed to be retaliation for the Pakistani military's assault on al Qaeda and Taliban groups in South Waziristan that began on Saturday.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility, according to The New York Times.

Since the bombing two days ago that killed six people, government and city officials have ramped up security across the country's educational institutions. According to Pakistan's Daily Times yesterday:

The recent security measures by the [Defense Housing Authority] administration include an increase in the number of mobile vans patrolling around the premises, the deployment of uniformed and under-cover policemen and security guards in and around the schools, a ban on the entry of strangers in the streets during the pick and drop timings, installation of closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras, disallowing the entry of any vehicle inside the school premises, and raising the height of boundary walls and installation of barbed wires. The other security measures include the installation of walk-through scanners, removal of any possible points of infiltration into the schools, tight internal security, presence of security during the night so that no one is able to hide in the school premises and removal of bushes and fences in the vacant plots situated around the buildings to prevent any potential terrorists hideouts.

And today the Daily Times reports that the government has deployed 300 Civil Defense Guards across Islamabad's private and government schools to maintain security. Interior Minister Rehman Malik also told the paper that the government has formed a core committee and three subcommittees to review security at the city's educational institutions and decide when to reopen them.

Before the twin terrorist attacks on Tuesday, Daily Times reports, the military-run Defence Housing Authority decided to close down all educational institutions within its neighborhoods in light of intelligence that terrorists would target schools in retaliation for the military's campaign in South Waziristan.

The decision became eerily prescient afterward, when the twin suicide bombers hit the IIU.

“The attack here is to tell the Muslims of the world that Pakistan is not safe for anyone,” Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, as quoted by Times. “This cannot be the work of any Pakistani or any Muslim.”

What's interesting, notes the Times, is that the terrorists attacked a university so steeped in Islam. The university prides itself on combining “the essentials of the Islamic faith with the best of modern knowledge,” according to its Web site.

The university, however, blamed the government for not warning it of the threat while acknowledging campus security could be improved on its Web site.

The International Islamic University had received no prior threat, or warning regarding this attack, either verbally or in writing from any organization. There was no prior instruction from any governmental organization regarding a security threat to the University. The University administration, on their own initiative and in light of the prevailing situation in the country, had started screening of all vehicles and persons entering the University, however, the area of the University ranging 704 acres lacks a boundary wall, or the type of security normally seen at security installations. The University had already submitted a project to the HEC/Federal Government to provide necessary funds for the completion of the boundary wall. This is a large project that would cost hundred of millions of rupees.

Pakistan's Dawn today reports that police have detained five men in connection with the suicide bombings but could not establish any direct connections between them and the attack. One theory circulating among police is that at least one of the suicide bombers was either a student or a faculty member of the university.

For pictures of the security posture at Pakistani schools, click here.


Photo of Islamabad cityscape by The Travelling Beaver/Flickr

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