Baitullah Mehsud, covered, signs the South Waziristan peace agreement in 2005. (BBC Urdu Edition) Click photo to view.
Another suicide bombing in the capital confirms a suicide campaign is underway; Prime Minister Aziz may have been the target
Pakistan has been hit with its sixth targeted bombing in less than two weeks. Today’s attack was conducted at the airport in the capital of Islamabad. A suicide bomber detonated his vest in a parking lot after a security guard chased him. “The bomber was stopped in a car just outside the airport and ran into the airport’s car park after police tried to search him. He opened fire at police chasing him before blowing himself up, police said.” The bomber was killed, while three were wounded, including a police officer and two airport security guards..
There is speculation this may have been a targeted assassination. “Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was returning from Gwadar at the time of the attack,” notes The Indian Express. “Officials were trying to figure out whether the militant was acting on inside information.” An American intelligence source told us Aziz was indeed the target, and the bomber had inside help. Alexis Debat’s Pakistani military sources said the “suicide bomber blew himself up at the main international airport in Rawalpindi today after being denied access to the area leading to the airport’s VIP lounge.”
Today’s attacks follows suicide bombings nationwide in Islamabad (at the Marriott), Peshawar, Dera Ishmail Khan and Mir Ali, while a government patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in Bajaur. The tribal regions have also seen an uptick in mortar and rocket attacks on Frontier Corps outposts.
The Pakistanis have been largely lucky in the suicide bombing, with 30 killed in the five separate attacks. Security forces have identified the suicide bombers in most cases, preventing the casualties from reaching high numbers. But the Taliban and al Qaeda claim to have hundreds of suicide bombers prepared to strike against government targets
The Pakistani government is rumored to be conducting offensive operations in the tribal regions to root out the Taliban and al Qaeda, particularly Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan, who maintains a Taliban army of 30,000 fighters. Baitullah has vowed to strike at the government in retaliation fortheJanuary 16th airstrike on the Taliban compound in Zamazola. All clues in the suicide attacks back to Baitullah. When the next suicide bomber makes it through security, President Pervez Musharraf may have little choice but to take the fight to the Taliban, despite the massive failures by the army during the 2004-06 campaigns.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.