U.S. warns citizens of possible attacks in Pakistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States warned its citizens in Pakistan on Tuesday to be vigilant because of the possibility of attacks by “terrorist elements” after the Pakistani government’s battle against militants at an Islamabad mosque.

The warning came from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, where Pakistani forces killed a rebel cleric and more than 50 Islamist militants after 15 hours of fighting in the compound of a mosque to end a week-long siege.

“The U.S. embassy recommends that American citizens limit their movement in the Peshawar area for several days due to non-specific public announcements by terrorist elements in Bajaur tribal agency that they plan to unleash attacks on Pakistani governmental, police, and army institutions in retaliation for recent events at the Lal Masjid complex in Islamabad,” the embassy said.

“In the past, militants in the tribal areas have conducted mass-casualty attacks on settled areas, including Peshawar, soon after military action,” the embassy added in a message to U.S. citizens in Pakistan posted on its Web site.

“Additionally, the possibility exists that these attacks could also be directed against U.S. and other Western interests and individuals in other areas,” it said. “The U.S. embassy and consulates recommend that all American citizens remain particularly vigilant during the next several weeks.”

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered troops to lay siege to the mosque on July 3, after a gunfight erupted during clashes with armed students, following months of tension between the authorities and Lal Masjid radicals.

At least eight soldiers were killed in the operation, bringing the number of dead to about 60 in total.