An obscure terror group based out of South Waziristan took credit for today’s deadly military assault on the Lahore police training center.
Pakistani officials are still sifting through the aftermath of the attack. Officials said between eight to 25 terrorists assaulted the police compound and killed between eight to 34 police recruits and police officers. Several of the attackers were captured, including one that linked the attack back to South Waziristan.
A spokesman for the Fedayeen-e-Islam said it conducted the attack in response to the deployment of Pakistani soldiers in the tribal areas. “As long as the Pakistani troops do not leave Tribal Areas, these attacks will continue,” Omar Farooq, a spokesman for the terror group told The Associated Press.
Earlier today, “militants” said the attack in Lahore “was retaliation by Al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Punjabi militants for Pakistan’s recent cooperation with the United States in hunting down Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders,” AKI reported. The terrorists were referring to the US air campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas and northwest that is targeting senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.
Pakistan’s interior minister also said the attack was planned and executed from South Waziristan, according to information obtained from one of the captured terrorists.
The Pakistani military has been fighting an insurgency in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province since 2004. The government has lost control of the tribal areas and ceded large swaths of the province to the Taliban through peace negotiations that leave the Taliban in control.
The Fedayeen-e-Islam is believed to be comprised of members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, or Army of the Prophet Mohammed, a banned terror group that operates in South Waziristan. The Fedayeen-e-Islam has direct links to South Waziristan chieftain and Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud as well as to al Qaeda. The Fedayeen-e-Islam claimed it carried out the devastating Marriott Hotel suicide attack in September 2008.
Members of Jaish-e-Mohammed fled Punjab and Pakistan-held-Kashmir and reestablished the group in South Waziristan after support for the jihad in Kashmir was squeezed by the Pakistani government. Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, fled to South Waziristan after temporarily being placed under house arrest in the wake of the Mumbai terror assault in November 2008. Rashid Rauf, another leader in both al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed, was thought to have been killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan last year, but his death has never been confirmed.
Jaish-e-Mohammad is a Punjabi terror group formed out of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, a group that conducts terror attacks in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir. Azhar and Jaish-e-Mohammed have close links to and conduct operations with Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, and al Qaeda in Pakistan and India.
In 1994, Azhar was detained by Indian security officials in Srinagar and charged with sponsoring terror attacks. He was released from an Indian jail along with Omar Saeed Sheikh in exchange for hostages held in an Indian Airlines flight hijacking in December 1999. Azhar established the Jaish-e-Mohammed the next year.
Azhar has been in Pakistani detention at least two times in the past decade. He was briefly detained after the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, but was cleared of charges by a court in Lahore. Pakistani police detained Azhar after the 2003 assassination attempts against then-President Pervez Musharraf, but quietly freed him months later.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed was implicated along with the Lashkar-e-Taiba as being behind the Dec. 13, 2001, military assault on the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi. In October 2001, the US designated Jaish-e-Mohammed as a foreign terrorist organization. The group receives support from Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency.