The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility for yesterday’s suicide bombing in the eastern city of Lahore which killed at least 10 people, including several police officers.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar took credit for the attack in a statement that was sent to FDD’s Long War Journal, and threatened to carry out further bombings.
“In this istishhadi [martyrdom] attack our beloved brother nasarullh alias zabeehullah got martyred May Allah accept his shahada [profession of faith],” said Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Asad Mansoor. “Just keep in mind these attacks and blasts are just the startings [sic] of operation GHAZI and we warn all the Pakistani murtad [apostate] departments that they are are our targets.”
At least 10 people were killed and 69 more were wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside of the Punjab Assembly building, according to Dawn. The jihadist attacked while Pakistanis were protesting a “a government crackdown against the sale of illegal drugs.”
The Lahore operation is the second claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar under Operation Ghazi. On Feb. 10, the group said it attacked three military outposts in the Pakistani tribal agency of Mohmand. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed that it killed “many” soldiers in the assault, while Pakistan’s military said that it “terrorists from Afghanistan” struck an outpost but were repelled.
Based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is a dangerous faction of the TTP which also has a presence in Punjab province. The group has claimed credit for multiple attacks inside Pakistan. In one of its most callous and deadly attacks, a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomber detonated at the entrance of a park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Easter Day in 2016. At least 72 people, mostly women and children, were killed and more than 300 were wounded in the blast. The group’s spokesman explicitly stated that “the target was Christians.” The terrorist group has also targeted the US consulate in Peshawar and polio vaccination teams in Karachi.
In Aug. 2016, the US State Department added Jamaat-ul-Ahrar to the list of global terrorists organizations. The group has advertised its training camps, which also provide instruction for its suicide bombers.
Operation Ghazi, which was announced by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar on Feb. 10. The operation is named after Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, one of the two leaders of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, before Pakistani troops raided the facility in July 2007. Ghazi and his brother, Abdul Aziz, were supporters of jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and had issued religious decrees that said Pakistani soldiers who died while fighting the Taliban were not true Muslims. Pakistani troops killed Ghazi during the raid, and captured his brother, who has since been released from custody.
In Jamaat-ul-Ahrar’s announcement that signaled the beginning of Operation Ghazi, the group said that it was waging “war against the enemies of Islam.” The list of permitted targets includes just about all areas of Pakistani society. The target list includes:
The Pakistani legislature
“Military and intelligence institutions … and the institutions supporting them”
The Pakistani judiciary
“Interest based economic institutions,” or banks
“Political parties which provide strength to the anti Islamic system” of government
Organizations that “spread Anti Islamic ideology, vulgarity and nudity
“People involved with blasphemy” of the Prophet Mohammed
“Media who propagate and make propagandas for the benefit of our enemies”
Schools that strengthen their enemies
The jihadist group claimed that it would not attack mosques, churches and temples “unless these places are used by the enemy against us.” In the past, Pakistani jihadist groups have executed multiple attacks inside mosques, schools, hospitals, and other civilian and religious institutions despite claims that they would not do so.