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Saturday, 10 October 2009

Attack on Pakistani Army HQ; Comparing the Coverage

6.0am GMT AP news started flashing up on the Sky News ticker about the shoot out in Rawal Pindi, with gunmen driving up to Gate No 1 at army HQ in my parents' home town.

Recently, since gunmen know that they will eventually be stopped, though it appears this group managed to get through a first police check, the tactic has been to use gunfire and hand grenades in attacks. This time the attackers were in army uniform, AP said this may have confused the army security guards, and used a white van.

A full half hour after Sky News flagged up the story, the BBC News channel had no word on the topic and were gaily continuing their other subjects of the day, seemingly oblivious to the dramatic and highly significant attack.

Four hours later, a shoot out had resulted in six army personnel and four attackers being killed. Sky was saying that two gunmnen were still on the loose in the compound, and on Radio 4, the BBC's Aleem Maqbool was saying that the shoot out was over, with everything under control. He was quoting an army spokesman.

Over on Radio 5, the bulletin said that "sources were saying that there were still gunmen on the loose" - a clear example of how un-joined up the BBC is.

Now, nearly eight hours since the attack began, there has just been more shooting in the compound but we have not yet been told if the gunmen have been killed or captured.

The Pakistani administration took Geo News and Sama TV off the air during this episode, they are often objective in their coverage.

Apparently in a telephone call to Geo News the Tahreek-e-Taliban, the group headed by Hakimullah, has claimed responsibility.

Latest information from Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder is that three attackers, not two, got into the compound, and one has been shot, one captured.

Update; Geo News reported that up to 15 security and civilian personnel are being held hostage at a second checkpost in the army HQ by four to five attackers, and the checkpost has been surrounded by Pakistani security. The militants are said to be asking for the release of some of their compatriots.

This episode demonstrates not that the Taliban are on the back foot but that they are as audacious and determined as they have ever been- and that they can wreak damage if they wish.

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