Man opens fire in Islamabad despite tight security

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - An armed man demanding the establishment of Islamic rule in Pakistan opened fire in the heavily policed heart of Islamabad on Thursday after slipping past the capital's many checkpoints.

Security has been tight in Islamabad after police received an alert about possible attacks by militants operating from the tribal areas on Pakistan's lawless border with Afghanistan.

As night fell, the unidentified man drove a black vehicle into the tightly guarded centre of Islamabad, stopped within a stone's throw from the president's official residence and opened fire in the air.

During the ensuing standoff with police, he demanded the overthrow of the government and fired randomly in the air.

"I am against vulgarity and immorality. My associates have taken up positions in the whole of Pakistan," he told a local TV channel. Hundreds of onlookers gathered in the central Jinnah Avenue as night fell and periodic gunshots rang out in the air.

Checkpoints and police armed with assault rifles dot many major access points in Islamabad, where attacks have become rare in recent years. Security has been tightened further in past weeks, particularly in the city centre where most government buildings and diplomatic missions are located.

Although he appeared to act on his own and seemed confused in his demands, it was unclear how the man, armed with at least two automatic rifles, managed to paralyse the city centre and cause a standoff with police including anti-terrorist units.

Last week the US government ordered the evacuation of non-essential staff from its consulate in the north-eastern Pakistani city of Lahore due to the threat of attack.