Terrorists killed 35 people and wounded scores more in a car bombing today at a market in the Jamrud area of Pakistan’s contested tribal agency of Khyber.
“The total number of deaths in the blast is 35 while 69 people were wounded, and of them the condition of 11 is critical,” a senior official in Khyber told AFP. The blast is thought to have been caused by a bomb placed in a van parked at the market.
Today’s bombing takes place as the Pakistani military has been battling the Taliban and their rivals, the Lashkar-e-Islam, in Khyber. On Jan. 1, the Pakistani military killed Qari Kamran, a senior Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan commander in the northwestern district of Nowshera, along with 11 fighters during a military operation in Khyber.
The Taliban have promised to avenge the death of Kamran, and in turn have executed 25 Pakistani paramilitary Frontier Corps troops who were captured in late December 2011 in the settled district of Tank and the tribal agency of Arakzai.
Pakistani security officials are said to want the Taliban to abandon the tribal agencies of Khyber and Arakzai, but are willing to cede the five other agencies (North and South Waziristan, Kurram, Mohmand, and Bajaur) to the Taliban in exchange for a peace agreement, according to The Express Tribune.
Khyber agency is a terrorist haven
Khyber has become a hub of Taliban and al Qaeda activity since the Pakistani military launched an operation in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan in October 2009. Taliban forces have relocated to the Bara and Jamrud regions and the Tirah Valley in the Khyber agency [see LWJ report, Taliban escape South Waziristan operation].
Tariq Afridi, a powerful Taliban commander based in Darra Adam Khel, has taken control of Taliban operations in Khyber. The Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam, a local Islamist terror group commanded by Mangal Bagh, have gained power in Khyber despite a series of Pakistani military operations that began in the summer of 2007 which were supposedly designed to relieve Taliban pressure on neighboring Peshawar. A total of five military offensives have failed to dislodge the terror groups.
Both the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam are known to operate bases and training camps in the Tirah Valley as well as in Bara and Jamrud. These three safe havens in Khyber enable these terror groups to launch attacks inside Pakistan as well across the border in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan. In November 2008, the US military attacked Taliban forces in the Tirah Valley after they retreated across the border from Nangarhar in Afghanistan. US strike aircraft and artillery killed seven Taliban fighters during the hot pursuit.
Al Qaeda fighters and leaders also are known to shelter in Khyber. In 2009, US Predators killed Ibn Amin, a Taliban and al Qaeda commander, in one of four strikes between Dec.16-17 in the Tirah Valley. Amin was the commander of the Tora Bora Brigade, one of six formations in al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army. He operated in the Swat Valley.
The Khyber Pass and a southern border crossing in Chaman were NATO’s main conduit for supplies into Afghanistan before the Pakistani government closed the routes down on Nov. 26, 2011. The closure was imposed after US troops killed 24 Pakistan Frontier Corps troops who opened fire on them in Afghanistan. Pakistan has not said when it would reopen the Khyber and Chaman border crossing points.