This post follows on from the earlier information about the attacks today in Islamabad:
Three attacks in three days in the Pakistani capital as the Waziristan operation goes on.
The latest is still happening about 2km from where Londonstani is now. Television news is saying an attacker wearing a suicide belt and carrying an AK47 started shooting near the city's courts in the F8 sector. The area is one of Islamabad's upper income districts. Details are confused but it seems the gunman is still on the loose. Police are evacuating the area, saying that he planted an explosive device before fleeing.
Earlier this morning, gunmen opened fire on a passing army jeep carrying a senior officer. Three or four soldiers were killed. Media is reporting most of the attackers escaped.
The day before yesterday, two suicide bombers killed four students at the Islamic University.
Islamabad is in a near state of panic.
A friend said today that a relative of his had rung him in a panic saying that she had seen men with guns pulling people out of cars on one of the main roads. This hasn't been reported anywhere and Londonstani is tempted to think its one of those situations where people are so worried they see one thing and imagine another.
A foreign security official told Londonstani that he had never seen Islamabad in such a state of nervousness. The attack in F8 particularly shook people up. The target seems to have been the courts, but the area is very residential, and pretty well heeled residential at that. Initial reports said the gunman was on the loose. A three mile radius from the central market area of F8 encompasses most of the shops, restaurants and cafes frequented by the local expat residents and Pakistani business and professional types.
Quite a few shop keepers told Londonstani that they were tempted to shut up shop when they heard through their televisions that a desperate armed man wearing a suicide belt could well be heading their way.
There was definitely less life on the street.. but there was still some.
Now, what does this mean for public opinion? As far as Londonstani is concerned it looks like his theory that the downfall of militant Islamists is hardwire into their DNA holds. They always seem to descend into pure bloodlust and lose whatever support they get through articulating popular grievance to Western policy. This is something AQ leadership warned against when they started their enterprise at the end of the Soviet-Afghan war and it's something they reiterated when Zarqawi went postal in Iraq and it's also something Zawahiri had to address in his internet Q&A session 18 months or so ago.
OK, so many Pakistanis feel that somehow the Indians, Americans and/or Israelis might be behind all this. But when the attacks mount up and the residents of your well guarded capital are too afraid to step outside their front doors, public opinion reaches a "I-don't-know-what-it-is-but-I-want-it-stopped" situation.
It's at times like this that the people who support a Taliban-type world view are temporarily silenced. That's not because they have changed their minds. It's because they feel deep down that their "just warriors of Islam" can't possibly be responsible for bombing civilians, eventhough the evidence seems to be mounting up. If that's your worldview, you don't abandon it because of a few bombs. Instead, you go away to figure out how you and square the circle.
Want to see what Londonstani's talking about? Check this out:
"Regarding the most recent bombing at Islamic University in Islamabad, note that the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for it (you can imagine that they’d be a bit pre-occupied to release a statement denying it right now). Despite that, all the govt officials and media outlets are pointing the finger of blame at them (even though they themselves are forced to acknowledge that they have not claimed responsibility for it).
"For those of you who choose to take the word of the Govt and Army (who are currently stooges of the Americans and are falling over themselves to lick their shoes) over that of the mujahideen, consider this: WHY ON EARTH WOULD THE TALIBAN INTENTIONALLY TARGET CIVILIAN AREAS WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO GAIN FROM IT?"
In Londonstani's experience, the answer is pretty simple. Violent groups - no matter what the stated noble aims - tend to attract a far share of complete nutters who need absolutely no justification to kill people. But, hey, if you are offering up one dressed up as God, country, flag or whatever, then, hell yeah, that'll do. And those sorts of people are pretty hard to control or weed out if you are running a professional modern army, let alone a volunteer militia made up of people with disparate aims.
It's also funny how people are quite happy to look for the logic when they are excusing their own side, but the "standard of proof" drops several notches when they are faced with something that confirms their own beliefs.
To give you an idea of that feeling of having had enough, check out this nice little mash up by Pakistani channel Geo. The title translates as "We Are Ready!" Actually, a more idiomatic translation would be, "We are ready for you!".
As if all that wasn't enough excitment for one day.. we just had a minor earthquake!!