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Police in Pakistan say that unknown gunmen shot and killed a senior army officer and his driver in Islamabad. The attack is the second this week in the city and the violence is seen as retaliation for the ongoing military offensive against Taliban extremists in their stronghold of the South Waziristan region, near the Afghan border.
Police say the early-morning attack took place in a residential part of the city, where assailants ambushed a military vehicle carrying a senior officer of the Pakistani military.
An eyewitness says two men took part in the assault that instantly killed the driver and the army officer.
The eyewitness says the attackers were armed with automatic weapons and riding a motor bike. He says they sprayed the vehicle with bullets and fled the scene. The slain army officer's security guard was wounded in the attack.
Chief of the Islamabad police, Kaleem Immam, told reporters the army officer was based in Sudan and had arrived in the country only four days ago, to mourn the death of his father-in-law. He blamed Taliban extremists for what he calls "a terrorist act." The police chief says the assassination is a reaction to the ongoing military offensive against militant bases in the Waziristan region.
"The war against terror is on and this is what the dissidents are up to and this is what they will be doing," Immam said. "But the law-enforcing agencies -- the army and the police -- are trying to do whatever is in the best in their capacity. We have nabbed a number criminals and, Inshallah [God willing], we will nab the assailants of today episode also."
The police officer says authorities are hunting the killers. Religious seminaries, known as madrassas, and mosques in the capital city are are also being searched.
Tuesday, two suicide bombers struck at Islamabad's International Islamic University, killing six people, mostly female students. Many others were wounded.
Since Saturday's launching a major ground offensive against Taliban bases in the South Waziristan tribal region Pakistani authorities have tightened security in the capital city and elsewhere in the country. The government has also closed educational institutions, fearing retaliatory militant attacks.
Prominent Pakistani analyst Hassan Askari says the attacks in Islamabad show the insurgents are able to strike wherever they want, to spread terror.
"The message of the terrorists is very clear," Askari said. "They want, first, demonstrate their capacity to take on the authorities, the state and the society, at a place of their choosing. And, the other objective is to divert the attention of the security agencies from South Waziristan, where the actual fight is going on, to the main cities, so that the pressure on South Waziristan is eased."
Army officials say the offensive in the Waziristan region has made significant advances, killing at least 115 militants. Sixteen soldiers also have lost their lives in the intense fighting. Some 30,000 Pakistan troops are fighting an estimated 10,000 al-Qaida-linked militants, including foreigners. The militants are also believed to be involved in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.
The government launched the anti-Taliban operation after a string of deadly attacks, across Pakistan, left scores of people dead. This included an assault on the military's headquarters in Rawalpindi that killed more than a dozen soldiers and nine attackers.