The Pakistani Taliban continues their terror campaign in the Northwest Frontier Province. The latest suicide attack targeted former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao while he conducted Eid prayers at a mosque in the settled district of Charsadda in the Northwest Frontier Province. Sherpao survived the assassination attempt, but over 50 Pakistanis were killed and over 200 wounded in the blast. Sherpao’s son and nephew were among the wounded.
This is the second attempt against Sherpao this year. The Taliban targeted Sherpao while he was addressing his political party, the Pakistan People’s Party (Sherpao Group) on April 28. Over 28 were killed in the suicide attack and scores more wounded, including Sherpao, his son, who was a minister in the NWFP assembly, and several other lawmakers and security officials. Taliban commander Abdullah Mehsud was behind the assassination attempt. Abdullah was killed by Pakistani security forces in July.
Sherpao has been a target of the Taliban and al Qaeda due to his stand against the rise in extremism in the Northwest Frontier Province and beyond. As Interior Minister, Sherpao led one of the few institutions the consistently stood up to the Taliban and al Qaeda. He was on the forefront in warning about the rise of the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province. Sherpao was a lone voice in the Pakistani government detailing the fall of the settled districts and tribal agencies to the Taliban in 2006.
This is the fourth suicide bombing in the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan since December 13. Twelve soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in Kohat on December 17. A suicide bomber killed five and wounded 11 in an attack on a military check post in Nowshera on December 15. Two suicide bombers killed 16, including 11 police in Quetta in Baluchistan province on December 13.
A host of attacks have also occurred throughout the Northwest Frontier Province over the past week. The largest attacks include a series of Taliban ambushes in North Waziristan that killed 15 soldiers and wounded 38, the kidnapping of two army captains and two soldiers while traveling from Dera Ismail Khan, and the beheading of a soldier in Khar in Bajaur agency. Numerous military patrols were ambushed and bases were rocketed, while music, Internet, and computer shops were bombed throughout the Northwest Frontier Province.
The Pakistani Taliban recently united to coordinate operations inside Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. On December 14, a shura, or council, of 40 senior Taliban leaders established the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan — the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan — and appointed powerful South Waziristan Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud its leader. Baitullah has been directly implicated in a series of suicide attacks on military and government officials throughout the course of 2007. The Taliban declared a ceasefire for Eid but clearly are not abiding by it.