Suicide bomber kills 14 in Pakistan's northwest
A Taliban suicide bomber described as a "boy" by eyewitnesses killed 14 Pakistanis in an attack on a civilian convoy in Pakistan's violent northwest.
The young suicide bomber attacked a convoy carrying Shia traveling from the district of Hangu in the Northwest Frontier Province to the neighboring tribal agency of Kurram. The bomb was detonated at a fuel pump as a bus loaded with civilians passed, killing 14 and wounding 25 more, Geo News reported. Four vehicles in the convoy, which was being escorted by security forces, were also destroyed.
The Pakistani Shia have been a favorite target of the Taliban and the allied terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Kurram has a significant Shia population and they have been under a relentless assault by the Taliban in the remote tribal agency. In 2008 and 2009, the Shia in Kurram were under siege by the Taliban as Pakistani security forces looked on. The Shia's only outside lifeline was through Afghanistan as the Taliban blocked the major routes from the tribal areas into the settled district.
Maulvi Noor Jamal, who is also known as Maulvi Toofan, is the Taliban commander in Kurram. He denied rumors that he had taken control of the Pakistani Taliban after Hakeemullah Mehsud was reported killed in late January 2010. In fact, Toofan claimed Hakeemullah is still alive.
Regions of Hangu are currently under Taliban control. The district is sandwiched between North Waziristan, Kurram, and Arakzai, another major Taliban stronghold. Large elements of the Taliban in the Mehsud regions of South Waziristan have relocated to Kurram, Hangu, and Arakzai, after the Pakistani Army launched an operation in October 2009 [see LWJ report, "Pakistani military hits Taliban in Arakzai"].
Tensions have also risen in North Waziristan, where locals are concerned that the military may launch an offensive after the Taliban killed two Frontier Corps troops during a clash in Miramshah. The military is reported to have moved eight tanks to the base in the main town of Miramshah, while also distributing pamphlets claiming the Taliban are "agents of Israel and India," according to Daily Times.
The Taliban immediately responded and issued their own pamphlets claiming the Pakistani Army is an "impure force" working at the behest of Israel, India, and the United States. "They said the army derived its strength from the 'terrorists' of private security contractor Blackwater, US drones, CIA, FBI, India's RAW intelligence agency and Israel's Mossad spy service," The Times of India reported.
Earlier this year, the Pakistani military said it has no plans to tackle the Taliban in North Waziristan and is reported to have rebuffed US pressure to tackle the dangerous, al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, which is based in North Waziristan and operates in eastern Afghanistan.