Taliban suicide bomber kills 7 Pakistani troops
A Taliban suicide bomber killed seven Frontier Corps soldiers today in an attack on a base in northwestern Pakistan. The attack, the second against the Frontier Corps in two days, was carried out to avenge a senior Taliban commander killed in a drone strike two months ago.
The Taliban suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a building at a Frontier Corps base in the settled district of Bannu and detonated the bomb, killing at least seven soldiers and wounding dozens more. Officials said the death toll may rise as several of the paramilitary soldiers may be trapped under the rubble.
A Taliban spokesman said the attack was designed to punish the Pakistani military for allowing the US to conduct an airstrike that killed a senior commander.
"We claim responsibility for the attack, which was launched to avenge the killing of one of our commanders Taj Gul in a US drone strike in South Waziristan tribal region last month," Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, told AFP. "Our attacks will continue against the security forces."
The attack is the second against the Frontier Corps in 24 hours. Yesterday, a platoon-sized Taliban assault team killed one Frontier Corps soldier and captured 15 more after overrunning a fort in the nearby district of Tank. That attack was led by Asmatullah Shaheen, or Asmatullah Bhittani, the Taliban's commander for Tank who is on the list of 20 most-wanted Taliban leaders.
The Taliban also claimed that the assault was executed to avenge the death of Taj Gul Mehsud, who has been described as the group's operations commander in South Waziristan and a senior deputy to Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is based in Pakistan's tribal areas and the northwest.
Taj Gul was reported to have been killed along with 12 other fighters in a US airstrike on Oct. 26. His death was not confirmed until Asmatullah announced yesterday's attack against the Frontier Corps.
Hakeemullah's forces are at war with the Pakistani state and also send troops to Afghanistan to fight NATO forces. He has vowed to carry out attacks in the US, and was behind the failed car bomb plot at Times Square in New York City on May 1, 2010.
Two of Hakeemullah's top deputies have recently signaled that their group is willing to make peace with the Pakistani state. While there is no official ceasefire between the Pakistani military and the Taliban, suicide attacks and attacks against security forces have been rare. The last reported suicide attack in Pakistan took place in late August. The Pakistani government has signaled it wishes to stop fighting the Taliban, and has suspended operations against the terror group, except for in the tribal agency of Arakzai.
A pause in drone strikes in Pakistan
The US has put the drone program, which hunts senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders as well as dangerous operatives, on hold since the Nov. 26 clash with Pakistani forces in Mohmand that resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops. The last strike took place 36 days ago, on Nov. 16.
The current pause in strikes is the longest since the program was expanded in the summer of 2008. A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that the program is "on hold" so as not to contribute to the deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan. Officials said the pause would be broken only if a high-value target were identified, but would not say how senior the al Qaeda leader must be for another strike to occur.