The U.S. all but shut down its diplomatic office in Lahore, Pakistan, ordering nonessential staff to move to the capital Islamabad while citing a specific threat amid soaring terrorist violence in the country.

Diplomatic outposts in the more volatile cities of Peshawar and Karachi were not affected by the security warning. U.S. officials would not say whether the alert was linked to an alleged al-Qaida threat that prompted the State Department to shut down 19 missions in 16 countries in the Middle East and Africa this week.

The withdrawal of staff from Lahore comes after days of relentless terrorist attacks across the country. U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan were warned their safety was not guaranteed on account of the activities of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

On Friday, gunmen attacked the car of a politician in the south-western city of Quetta, killing nine bystanders and wounding 27. The politician, an ex-minister in the provincial government of Baluchistan called Ali Mohammad Jattack, was not hurt.

… Other attacks this week include the murder of 13 bus passengers by separatist militants as they travelled through the troubled province of Baluchistan. Also on Friday a suicide bomber attempted to blow himself up in a Shia Muslim mosque in Islamabad. The attacker was killed in a shootout with guards before he could detonate his explosive jacket. One guard was killed in the standoff.

Sunni sectarian terrorism is one of the main strands of Pakistan’s increasingly alarming security crisis. But analysts are unsure what is driving the spike in violence. Many observers expected attacks by the Pakistani Taliban to decline after May’s historic elections. During the campaign, politicians from parties regarded by Islamists as liberal and secular were attacked by Taliban gunmen and bombers.

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