Pakistani commandos freed dozens of hostages held by militants at the army's own headquarters today, ending a bloody, 22-hour drama that embarrassed the nation's military as it plans a new offensive against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. At least 19 people died in the standoff, including three captives and eight of the militants, who wore army fatigues in the audacious assault. The rescue operation began before dawn, ultimately freeing 42 hostages, the military said.
One attacker, described as the militants' ringleader, was captured as he wounded himself by setting off explosives he was carrying. Five heavily armed militants took the hostages after they and about four other assailants attacked the headquarters' main gate yesterday, killing six soldiers, including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel. The gunmen arrived in a white van that reportedly had army license plates. It was the third major attack in Pakistan in a week.