A street is ablaze in the aftermath of the blast in Peshawar. AFP photo.
The Taliban have denied involvement in this week’s deadly bombing near a bazaar in Peshawar that has now killed 119 people and wounded 500 more. Instead, Hakeemullah Mehsud said, the US contracting firm “Blackwater” (which changed its name and is now known Xe) and “Pakistani agencies” carried out the deadly attack. An excerpt from the report at Outlook India is below.
Pakistani Taliban chief Haemullah Mehsud has claimed that the controversial American security firm Blackwater was behind the deadly bomb attack on a market in Peshawar that killed over 100 people.
Hakeemullah questioned why the Taliban should target the public when it was capable of carrying out attacks in Islamabad and targeting the army’s General Headquarters.
In an interview with BBC Urdu, he claimed Blackwater and “Pakistani agencies” were involved in attacks in public places to discredit the militants.
Reports in the Pakistani media have claimed that Blackwater has established a presence in the country by tying up with local security firms but these allegations have been rejected by the US administration.
When Hakeemullah was asked about the perception among people that militants are involved in attacks on public places, he said: “Our war is against the government and the security forces and not against the people. We are not involved in blasts.”
Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq, who was present along with Hakeemullah, warned that the militants could target media organisations that are “defaming” the Taliban.
A couple of points:
1) It is humorous that Hakeemullah and spokesman Tariq Azam express shock that the Taliban could possibly be accused of conducting such an attack on a civilian target, then they turn around and threaten the Pakistani media for “defaming” the Taliban.
2) According to Indian terrorism expert B. Raman, the Taliban may actually have a degree of plausible deniability. “Sources in the ANP [the Awami National Party, the ruling Pashtun arty in the Northwest Frontier Province] seem to believe that the repeated attacks on civilians in Peshawar are being carried out by elements in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, both allied to Al Qaeda,” Raman reported. “This serves the purpose of discrediting the ANP-led Government in the NWFP and at the same time sparing the TTP [the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] of unpopularity for slaughtering innocent Pashtun civilians.” Even if the IMU and IJU have targeted civilians and the Taliban have not played a role (highly unlikely), the Taliban provides them sanctuary and thus are complicit.
3) By blaming “Blackwater,” Hakeemullah is tapping into the very dangerous conspiratorial current that is running through Pakistan. Many Pakistanis believe that US contracting firms are secretly plotting to take over the state and are fighting a shadow war within the country (see articles here, here, and here in The Nation, for a small taste). This conspiratorial attitude is encouraged by Pakistani officials who insist on blaming the US, India, Israel, and anyone but the terrorists in their own midst who are actually conducting the attacks.