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Pakistan suicide attacks spike, but overall attacks are down

While suicide attacks have risen – apparently in retaliation for Army offensives – militant attacks overall have dropped sharply, suggesting that the Army’s efforts to rein in Pakistani Taliban are paying off.

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A view of destruction caused by a suicide car bombing in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab province, Pakistan on Tuesday.

Saleem Raza/AP

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Pakistani militants struck again on Tuesday, adding to the rise in suicide bomb attacks hitting the country’s populous heartland, Punjab Province.

But while suicide attacks have spiked – apparently in retaliation for the Army's offensives in the northwest in recent months – militant attacks overall have dropped sharply, suggesting that the Army’s efforts to rein in Pakistani Taliban are paying off, though at a cost, not least of all in civilian casualties.

According to the Brookings Institution, the number of monthly militant attacks has slid since June, dropping from more than 250 to about 170. That decline coincides with the first of the Army's two major offensives this year, in Swat Valley.

The decline has been sharpest in the North West Frontier Province, where Swat is located, dropping from about 160 to 70.

These attacks, which Brookings labels as “terrorist/insurgent attacks,” refer to “any attack against civilians or targets within the country by insurgents not participating in a battle against security forces,” explains Ian Livingston, who helped create the index. This includes unprovoked gun attacks, roadside bombings, mortar attacks on outposts, and so on. It also includes some suicide bombings.

The past several weeks have seen an even further drop in attacks, Mr. Livingston says. This decrease came as the Army launched an offensive Oct. 17 against Pakistan's main Taliban faction in their South Waziristan stronghold in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The dropoff is especially sharp in NWFP and FATA, he says.

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