Map of the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. The government signed peace agreements in the red agencies/ districts (the military said Shangla was under Taliban control in October); purple districts are under de facto Taliban control; yellow regions are under Taliban influence.
The Taliban continue to press their terror campaign in Pakistan’s violence-wracked Northwest Frontier Province. Taliban fighters shot and killed a US citizen outside of his home in Peshawar, the provincial capital. In a separate attack, a Taliban suicide bomber struck outside of a high school in the neighboring district of Charsadda.
A Taliban team gunned down killed Steve Vance and his driver outside of Vance’s home in a so-called secure neighborhood in Peshawar “favored by diplomats and foreign aid workers close to the American Club,” Reuters reported.
The Taliban assassination squad was able to penetrate the security in Peshawar, scouted Vance’s home, and wait for him to leave his home. “As he was coming out of his home, the attackers opened fire on him and killed him along with his driver,” a senior police officer told the news agency.
Vance directed a “US government funded project to develop livelihoods in the tribal region.” Vance’s wife and five children live in Peshawar, but were not killed in the attack. The US has allocated more than $750 million to improve living conditions in Pakistan’s lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.
The Taliban conducted a similar attack in Peshawar in late August. A team of fighters ambushed and fired on the car carrying Lynne Tracy, the US Consulate’s principal officer, as she left her home in the same neighborhood in Peshawar. Tracy narrowly escaped the attack as her driver was able to dodge the roadblock put up by the Taliban fighters.
In Charsadda, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated at the entrance of a high school in the town of Machni. Seven Pakistanis, including five security personnel, were killed in the attack, Geo TV reported. The target of the attack appears to have been the security personnel. No students were reported to have been killed, but the school was damaged.
Today’s suicide attack followed yesterday’s a strike outside of a stadium in Peshawar. The target was Bashir Ahmed Bilour, the provincial Chief Minister. Bilour escaped the suicide attack, but two members of his security detail were killed. The Taliban took credit for the attack.
Both Peshawar and Charsadda are “settled” districts of the Northwest Frontier Province, outside of the tribal areas ruled by the Taliban. The Taliban have extended their influence and control into the settled districts in an effort to expand their Islamic Emirate.
The Taliban have a strong presence in districts of Swat, Shangla, Dir, Hangu, Bannu, and Tank. The rest of the districts have a strong Taliban presence. The Pakistani military has launched operations to retake Swat and the Bajaur tribal agency. But the military is engaged in brutal fighting and has made little progress in retaking the regions. The military has used scorched-earth tactics and has threatened tribal groups with violence if they did not oppose the Taliban.
The government indicated it has no intention of taking on the Taliban strongholds of North and South Waziristan. The US military has been conducting strikes in these two tribal agencies in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda and the Taliban’s vast network of training camps and support locations.