Over 20 wounded in attack on Pakistani Army training base in the Northwest Frontier Province
As the Pakistani government continues to press for a peace accord in Bajaur and elsewhere in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a suicide bomber strikes at an Army base in Dargai in the Northwest Frontier Province. Over 42 Pakistani Army trainees were murdered and 20 wounded in the attack. “The bomber wrapped a chadar (cloak) around his body and came running into the training area and exploded himself where recruits had gathered for training,” a military official said, reports News.com.au.
“Dargai is a stronghold of militant group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law),” reports Reuters. TNSM is run by none other than Faqir Mohammed, one of the targets of the Chingai raids, who is considered a “local al Qaeda leader” who provided shelter to Ayman al-Zawahiri in Damadola, and is the key tribal leader behind the Bajaur Accord negotiations.
While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Dargai base, al Qaeda and TNSM will be the primary suspects. The attack is very likely retaliation for the airstrike on Faqir Mohammed’s madrassa and terrorist training camp in Chingai, Bajaur. [Updated: Islamabad has already linked the attacks to the Bajaur strike.]
Elsewhere in Pakistan, Northwest Frontier Province governor Jan Orkazi was the target of a rocket attack in Wana, South Waziristan. Three rockets were fired at Wana as Orkazai was in town to meet with tribal leaders in a ‘jirga.’ The Taliban are said to wish to codify their control over the agency, but there is no word if the jirga was held to conduct a peace treaty. Orkazai’s spokesman claims he did not cut his visit shortdue to the attack, nor was he the target of the attack.
Hassan Abbas of the Jamestown Foundation states President Pervez Musharraf has been seeking peace deals in the tribal regions to placate his base of support – the Pakistani military, which has a large percentage of Pashtun officers and enlisted soldiers.
While Musharraf attempts to please the military, the Taliban and al Qaeda continue to attack it, or subvert it from within. The suicide attack on Dargai is but the largest in an ongoing series of attacks on bases and outposts throughout the Northwest Frontier Province. Governor Orkazai, himself a Pashtun and a Taliban sympathizer, is also a retired Army Lieutenant General. Orkazai is said to have fallen out of favor with the Taliban after the Chingai airstrikes. Up to 20 Air Force officers are believed to be involved in the foiled coup attempt. One of the conspirators is the son of a retired Brigadier General.
Musharraf has a very real problem. His attempts to placate the military results in the Taliban and al Qaeda consolidating their power and taking bolder moves against the government. The rare attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda infrastructure, designed to ‘prove’ Pakistan is indeed a valuable ally in the war, only serve to enrage the pro-Islamist elements within the military, increasing the likelihood of more coup attempts. His attempts to play both sides of the issue only serves to further destabilize a precarious situation in nuclear armed Pakistan.