A suicide bomber killed more than 50 people in a blast today at the Wagah border crossing in Pakistan. Two major Pakistani jihadist groups claimed credit for the attack.
The blast occurred outside of a restaurant near a checkpoint manned by Pakistani border guards. The Wagah border crossing is the only road link between Lahore and the Indian city of Amritsar.
“People were returning after watching the parade at Wagah border when the blast took place,” the chief of police for the nearby city of Lahore said, according to Dawn. “Ball bearings were found at the scene,” he continued.
Police and hospital officials said that at least 55 people were killed and 70 more were wounded in the deadly blast.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a recently formed splinter group of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Jundallah both claimed credit for the suicide attack in Wagah.
“Our friend Hanifullah operated this attack,” Ihsanullah Ihsan, the spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar wrote in an email sent to The Long War Journal. “The [sic] is the start of attacks of TTPJA [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar] and InshaAllah [God willing] we will continue such attacks in the future.”
Ihsan said the suicide bombing “is the revenge of the killing of those innocent people who have been killed by Pakistan Army particularly of those who have been killed in North Waziristan.”
Additionally, Ihsan promised to release video of the attack and discounted the claims of responsibility of “other groups.”
“Some other groups claim the responsibility of this attack but these claims are baseless,” Ihsan said. “We will soon release the video of this attack.”
Jundallah, another jihadist group that operates in Pakistan, also claimed the attack and said it was carried out to avenge Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan.
Both groups are capable of conducting mass-casualty suicide attacks inside Pakistan.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which was formed in late August after a leadership dispute with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is comprised of jihadist factions, including the Mohmand Taliban branch, that have been involved in deadly suicide attacks and assaults throughout Pakistan. Just two weeks before the group officially announced its formation, it participated in a joint suicide assault with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan on two Pakistani military airbases in Quetta. [See LWJ reports, Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar forms in northwestern Pakistan and Quetta airbase attacks carried out by Pakistani Taliban, IMU.]
Jundallah, a Karachi-based terrorist group closely tied to al Qaeda and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has also launched several high-profile suicide attacks inside Pakistan. In September, Jundallah claimed credit for a suicide attack at a church in Peshawar that killed 81 Christians. In July 2013, the group claimed credit for a suicide assault on a local headquarters for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) in Sukkur.