Taliban suicide bombers targeted mosques in Lahore and Nowshera, Pakistan, in the latest attacks against their enemies in places of worship. Eleven civilians, including a respected anti-Taliban cleric, were killed in the two suicide strikes.
The Lahore attack took place as worshipers were leaving the mosque at the end of Friday prayers. Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, a popular, outspoken anti-Taliban cleric , was among five people killed and 10 wounded in the attack. One report indicated a suicide bomber entered Naeemi’s office and detonated his vest. Naeemi’s office and an outer wall of the mosque were leveled in the bombing.
Naeemi was a vocal opponent of the Taliban and supported the military operation to root them out of the Swat Valley. He labeled the Taliban as terrorists and issued fatwas, or religious edicts, against suicide attacks, saying these types of attacks are against Islam.
The attack in Nowshera also took place at a mosque while worshipers gathered for Friday prayers. A suicide bomber rammed his pickup truck laden with explosives into the outer wall and detonated. The explosion caused the roof of the building to collapse. At least six people have been reported killed and more than 90 were reported wounded. Police expect the death toll to rise as they sift through the rubble.
The Nowshera suicide attack took place shortly after a senior local Taliban commander named Qari Khursheed and three of his followers were captured in the district. Police said Khursheed admitted to his involvement in terror attacks.
The Lahore and Nowshera suicide attacks are the latest in a wave of Taliban violence targeting mosques [see list below]. The last attack took place just six days ago, when a Taliban suicide bomber destroyed a mosque in the northwestern district of Dir. Forty-nine people were killed in the deadly attack. The local tribes in Dir have retaliated against the Taliban and thousands of tribal fighters are said to have surrounded hundreds of Taliban fighters.
The Taliban have launched a wave of attacks in Pakistan’s cities since the operation in Swat Valley began just six weeks ago. There have been seven high-profile attacks in Pakistan this week, including the complex suicide attack on a posh hotel in Peshawar that killed 11 people, including two UN officials. Just yesterday, the Taliban launched an attack outside the Peshawar Corps Commander’s residence and killed three people in a suicide attack on a police checkpoint. The Taliban have also carried out successful strikes in Islamabad, Malakand, and Dera Ismail Khan over the past week.
Major attacks at mosques and religious events in Pakistan since December 2007:
June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed five Pakistanis, including anti-Taliban cleric Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, in an attack on a mosque during Friday prayers.
June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six worshipers and wounded more than 90 in an attack inside a mosque in Nowshera. The attack collapsed the dome of the mosque.
June 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 49 worshipers in an attack on a mosque in a remote village in Dir.
April 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 worshipers and wounded more than 100 in an attack outside a Shia religious center in the Chakwal district in Punjab province.
March 27, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 70 worshipers and wounded more than 125 in an attack at a mosque in the Khyber tribal agency.
March 5, 2009: An attacker threw a hand grenade into the middle of a mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, wounding 25 worshipers.
March 2, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six people during an attack at a gathering in a mosque in the Pishin district in Baluchistan.
Feb. 20, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 32 Pakistanis and wounded more than 85 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia elder who was murdered in Dera Ismail Khan.
Feb. 5, 2009: A suicide attack outside a mosque killed more than 30 Shia worshipers and wounded more than 50.
Nov. 22, 2008: A bombing at a mosque in Hangu killed five civilians and wounded seven.
Nov. 21, 2008: A suicide attack on a funeral procession in Dera Ismail Khan killed 10 mourners and wounded more than 25.
Sept. 10, 2008: The Taliban attacked a mosque filled with Ramadan worshipers in the district of Dir in northwestern Pakistan. More than 25 worshipers were killed and more than 50 were wounded.
Aug. 19, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 29 Shia mourners and wounded 35 after detonating in the emergency ward of a hospital.
June 17, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in a bombing at a Shia mosque in Dera Ismail Khan.
May 19, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed in a bombing outside a mosque in Bajaur.
Jan. 17, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 10 and wounded 25 in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar.
Dec. 28, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a mosque in Charsadda in an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao as he conducted Eid prayers. More than 50 were killed and more than 200 were wounded.