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Taliban bombs trigger Lahore backlash

By Paula Newton, CNN
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Taliban backlash
  • As Pakistani army campaign intensifies in tribal areas, Taliban have gone for softer city targets
  • Residents traumatized by bombs are leading a backlash against Islamist militants
  • Officials says civilian support has been pivotal to their campaign
  • Lahore
  • Pakistan
  • The Taliban

Lahore, Pakistan (CNN) -- This bustling northern city is Pakistan's cultural heart and until last year it had been relatively immune to the terror that has traumatized so many Pakistanis.

But as a military campaign to "clear out" the Taliban rages in tribal regions, urban centers like Lahore have become vulnerable to suicide bombings.

"Where is the security? I'm scared, I'm very scared, I'm afraid to take my child to school," said one mother on a Lahore street after twin blasts rocked Pakistan's second city in mid-March.

That double bombing, followed by multiple, smaller blasts, killed more than three dozen people and injured several more, shattering the relative serenity once taken for granted in Lahore.

At the site of one of the blasts, merchants and neighbors talked about how people were afraid to go out and that the streets were not as busy as they used to be.

The bombs and the carnage they have brought with them have changed perceptions about the war against the Taliban.

"Initially the reaction was, 'the Taliban do not exist,' everything is fabricated by the United States. Now, they have come to realize they do exist, it's a threat and something has to be done about it," says Omar Farooq, a Pakistani American who lives in Lahore and narrowly escaped injury after an attack in December.

According to the Pakistani government, a steadily rising number of people who used to consider the war against the Taliban a U.S. affair, now consider it their own war.

While the Pakistani military says it has racked up an impressive record of successes against militants, the Taliban have proven their capability to fight back and retaliate against not just so-called soft targets such as civilians, but also the most secure targets.

Nusrat Parveen Ghani can't stop sobbing as she grieves for her 26-year-old son Rizvan. The rickshaw driver was killed in the double suicide bombing in mid-March. His mother says he had been trying to help one of the victims of the first blast when he caught by the second blast.

"When I saw the reality of it, he was torn apart from the waist down, I couldn't bare it," she says, still crying as her husband comforts her.

Suicide bombers, car bombs and Taliban plots were all once foreign to this family, but no longer.

"I'm just a simple man," insists Rizvan's father Abdul Ghani adding, "we're on the sidelines watching this circus."

Military officials in Pakistan told CNN the backlash against the Taliban has been pivotal for their offensive campaign. With many more Pakistanis now supporting their battle against militants, officials say this support has helped more than U.S. demands ever could, strengthening their resolve to tackle the Taliban.