Bombing Shows Pakistan Militant Groups Uniting

Taliban says it bombed building where another group's members were being held.

ByABC News
May 27, 2009, 7:24 PM

DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan, May 27, 2009 — -- When a car bomb blew up in Lahore today 200 miles north of here, it destroyed an intelligence agency's interrogation room where agents were interviewing suspects from a militant organization based near this dusty city in southern Punjab, according to an intelligence official and a friend of one of the agents.

But the Punjabi militant group, known as Lashkar-e-Jungvi, didn't take responsibility for the attack, which killed 30 people and wounded 250 more. Instead, the Taliban, which is based near the Afghan border, claimed responsibility.

This was just the latest sign that diverse militant groups from across the country are uniting, just as Pakistan has started to shows signs it is cracking down on the very terrorists it once helped create -- and now admits threaten the very future of the state.

Here in the dusty plains of southern Punjab, where the vast majority of the population spend their days farming fields, there is a palpable sense among the police that a war is brewing.

The militant groups with roots in this area -- created by Pakistan's military to fight Indians in Kashmir -- have become stronger and have turned their ire inward since then President and Army Chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf banned them after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And police officials say as the groups here grow in strength, they are unifying to a greater extent in the past with Taliban fighters. Earlier this week police officials say Taliban fighters were arrested in the northwest Punjab border town of Mianwali.

The Taliban and Punjab militant groups "are working hand in glove," says Malik Iqbal, the former Lahore city police chief.

Analysts fear that if militant groups that used to either ignore or even fight each other team up, they could extend their ability to attack the country's security forces, whose resources are already stretched thin.

"Ultimately we're going to reach a tipping point where the Taliban will have opened so many fronts in Northern Pakistan, in Punjab, that it will be almost impossible for the army to deploy against so many fronts which are so distant from each other geographically," says Ahmed Rashid, the author of "Descent into Chaos" and who lives in Lahore.