The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for a suicide attack in Pakistan’s contested tribal agency of Bajaur.
The attack took place at a place at a checkpoint near a bazaar in Khar, the administrative seat of Bajaur, earlier today. Officials said that 20 people, including a senior police official and two police officers, were killed and 45 more were wounded in the deadly attack.
Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan took credit for today’s attack.
“We carried out the attack today. We are very happy today that we have achieved our target,” he told Reuters.
Today’s suicide attack was preceded by a double bombing in Bajaur just yesterday. The Taliban detonated a roadside bomb that killed two anti-Taliban tribal leaders in Chamarkand, according to The Nation. Three paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in a second IED attack as they responded to the first bombing.
The Taliban have ruthlessly attacked the anti-Taliban militias that have sprung up throughout the northwest. The terror group has countered thee militias, which are known as lashkars, by targeting attacking tribal meetings and killing senior leaders. The largest such attack against tribal leaders took place in December 2010, when a suicide bomber killed 50 people and wounded more than 100 in an attack on a government official’s office in Ghalalnai, the administrative seat of the tribal agency of Mohmand, which borders Bajaur to the south. In January 2011, a suicide bomber killed 37 people attending the funeral of a relative of Hakeem Khan, a Pashtun tribal leader who has raised a local militia against the Taliban in the Matni area in Peshawar.
Over the past several years, the Taliban have mounted a savage campaign against tribal leaders in the greater northwest who oppose them. Tribal opposition has been violently attacked and defeated in Peshawar, Dir, Arakzai, Khyber, and Swat. Suicide bombers have struck at tribal meetings held at mosques, schools, hotels, and homes. [See LWJ report, Anti-Taliban tribal militia leader assassinated in Pakistan’s northwest, for more information on the difficulties of raising tribal lashkars in Pakistan’s northwest.]
Although the military has conducted several operations in Bajaur, it has failed to eject the Taliban. Since 2008, the Pakistani military has twice claimed victory over the Taliban in Bajaur. During the same time period, the military has launched several major operations in an effort to clear the Taliban from the tribal agency. The campaign has been described as brutal, as the military used scorched earth tactics in an effort to eject the terrorist group.
But the military has failed to kill or capture the top Taliban leaders in Bajaur. The leadership cadre and most of the fighters escaped to neighboring tribal agencies or slipped across the border into the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, only to return and restart operations.
In the past, Bajaur has served as a command and control center for al Qaeda for operations in northeastern Afghanistan. The Taliban’s former emir in Bajaur, Faqir Mohammed, who was relieved of command earlier this year, was closely linked to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri. In 2007, US Predators targeted one of Faqir’s madrassas in Bajaur. The target of the attack was Zawahiri, who is said to have left the madrassa just hours before the strike.