The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a massive car bomb blast at a natural gas station in Faisalabad in Punjab province that killed at least 32 people today.
The Taliban detonated a car bomb at a compressed natural gas station near an office of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. The blast detonated gas cylinders, which amplified the explosion and resulted in the destruction of the gas station and a building owned by Pakistan International Airlines. The ISI building was not damaged in the attack, however.
At least 32 people are known to have been killed and 125 have been wounded. The death toll is likely to rise, as rescue workers are digging out those trapped under the rubble.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, a Taliban spokesman, said the ISI was the target of the attack, Dawn reported. Ihsan said that the attack was to avenge a raid in Faisalabad last year that killed a “militant.” He also accused the ISI of cooperating with the US in rounding up Taliban fighters in return for money.
Today’s blast in Faisalabad was likely carried out by the Movement of the Taliban in Punjab, which is better known as the Punjabi Taliban. The terror group includes members and factions of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. It is closely allied with al Qaeda and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban and allied terror groups inside Pakistan have stepped up attacks inside the country since mid-January. The terror groups have carried out five major attacks in the past week. On March 4, a suicide bomber killed nine people in a bombing at a mosque in Nowshera. On March 3, a suicide bomber killed nine Pakistanis in an attack on a police outpost in Hangu, and six police were killed in an ambush in the tribal agency of Bara. And on March 2, the Punjabi Taliban and al Qaeda assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs in a shooting outside his mother’s home in Islamabad.
The Faisalabad blast is the 19th attack by the Taliban and allied terror groups against military, police, and intelligence facilities in Pakistan’s large cities since March 2009 [see the list below]. The Taliban and allied terror groups have struck at targets such as military and police training facilities, intelligence headquarters for the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and the Federal Investigation Agency, a weapons complex that houses nuclear weapons components, and even the Pakistani Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Navy Headquarters in Islamabad. Thirteen of the major attacks against security installations took place in 2009, four occurred in 2010, and there have been two major attacks so far this year.
The Taliban have also carried out hundreds of smaller attacks against police stations and army checkpoints, police and army patrols, and other targets, including government buildings, mosques, shrines, religious processions, and hospitals, during that same time period. Many, but not all, of the small-scale attacks have taken place in Pakistan’s insurgency-infested province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Despite the direct targeting of security and intelligence agencies by the Taliban, the Pakistani military and the ISI have shown an unwillingness to take on the conglomerate of terror groups inside Pakistan. The military and the ISI have selectively targeted what they consider to be “bad Taliban,” such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and elements of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, but refuse to deal with the so-called “good Taliban” and groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, as these groups are seen as assets to be used against India and in Afghanistan.
Major terror assaults on security targets in Pakistan’s large cities in 2009-2011:
March 8, 2011
The Taliban detonated a car bomb at a compressed natural gas station, killing 32 people. The Taliban said a nearby ISI building was the target.
Feb. 10, 2011
A teenage suicide bomber killed 31 army recruits at the Punjab Regiment Center in the city of Mardan.
Nov. 11, 2010
A suicide assault team penetrated security at the Crime Investigation Department headquarters in a secured area of Karachi. The attack killed 17 people.
March 12, 2010
Two suicide bombers killed 39 people in a simultaneous attack against military personnel in a cantonment in Lahore.
March 8, 2010
A suicide bomber killed 11 people and wounded 37 more in an attack on the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore.
Jan. 6, 2010
A suicide bomber killed three security personnel as he attempted to get inside an Army barracks in the Tararrkhal region in Pakistan-held Kashmir.
Dec. 8, 2009
A suicide assault team killed 12 people while targeting a headquarters for the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in the city of Multan in South Punjab.
Dec. 4, 2009
A Taliban suicide assault team estimated at between three to five men entered a mosque in the city and opened fire on the worshipers and detonated suicide vests, killing 40 and wounding 83 more. The attack killed two senior generals and wounded another.
Dec. 2, 2009
A Taliban suicide bomber detonated outside the headquarters of the Pakistani Navy in Islamabad, killing one security guard and critically wounding two others.
Nov. 13, 2009
In an attack that targeted the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in the provincial capital, 10 Pakistanis were killed and more than 35 wounded.
Nov. 2, 2009
A Taliban suicide bomber killed 34 Pakistanis and wounded scores more in an attack in Rawalpindi. The attack targeted military personnel as they lined up to cash their checks.
Oct. 23, 2009
A Taliban suicide bomber killed seven people during an attack at a security checkpoint at the Kamra Air Weapon Complex in the district of Attock in Punjab province.
Oct. 16, 2009
A pair of suicide bombers, including a female, attacked a police station and a building housing an intelligence service in Peshawar, killing 11.
Oct. 15, 2009
Terrorist assault teams attacked the Federal Investigation Agency building, the Manawan police training centre, and the Elite Force Headquarters in Lahore. In the attacks, 26 people were killed, including 12 policemen and nine terrorists.
Oct. 10, 2009
An assault team attacked the Army General Headquarters and took 42 security personnel captive. In the ensuing battle, 11 soldiers were killed, including a brigadier general and a lieutenant colonel, along with nine members of the assault team, and 39 hostages were freed.
June 11, 2009
Hakeemullah Mehsud, the cousin of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, and a group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigade both claimed responsibility for the deadly attack that killed 17 people and destroyed a large section of the hotel.
May 27, 2009
After an assault team opened fire on security personnel and stormed the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, 23 people were killed, including policemen and ISI officials. During the attack, a truck laden with explosives was detonated in front of the police headquarters, leveling the building.
March 30, 2009
The Taliban killed 34 police and recruits during a terrorist assault and eight-hour siege on a police training facility in the eastern city of Lahore.
March 3, 2009
A terrorist strike team estimated at about 12 men ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team as it traveled to a sports stadium in Lahore. Five policemen and two civilians were killed, and dozens were wounded, including some cricket officials.