Suicide strikes continue to emanate from Pakistan’s tribal region, a Taliban safe haven
As the death toll in Saturday’s suicide assassination attempt against Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao in his home district in Charsadda has risen to 31 killed, with 15 of the 60 wounded reported in critical condition, Sherpao has leveled the charge that the Pakistani Taliban is behind the attack. “Preliminary investigations have revealed that the attack was committed by a suicide bomber of Abdullah Mehsud,” Sherpao stated during a press conference Sunday evening.
Abdullah Mehsud is a powerful Taliban commander based out of South Waziristan, and a member of the same tribe as Baitullah Mehsud, another senior Taliban tribal leader in South Waziristan. Baitullah conducted a suicide campaign against the Pakistani government in the late winter and spring of 2007.
Abdullah Mehsud (or Noor Alam) fought with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance in 1996, and lost his leg during the fighting. He was captured by Rashid Dostrum’s forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan in December of 2001 and sent to the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. He was released from U.S. custody after just over 2 years of captivity, and immediately returned to South Waziristan to take command of his contingent In late 2004, Abdullah was behind the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers, one of whom was killed during a Pakistani military rescue attempt.
The Pakistani Interior Ministry is continuing to investigate the suicide bombing. The head of the suicide bomber was reported to have been recovered. “He is either an Afghan or belongs to our tribal areas,” said Fayaz Toru, an investigator of the attack. “The pattern of attack was similar to previous ones, all of which had links in our tribal areas.” Eight to ten kilograms of a Russian explosive called MUV2 was used in the strike, and “two Russian-made detonators and parts of the [suicide] jacket” were recovered by investigators.
Elsewhere in the Waziristans, the Taliban and al Qaeda remain active. A suspected Saudi al Qaeda operative named Suleman Zakariya was arrested while crossing from South Waziristan into Balochistan. Also in South Waziristan, the Taliban murdered two more “U.S. spies” in Jandola. “A note found besides the two bodies accused them of spying for the US and of making fake currency,” the Daily Times reported.
The Taliban “attacked an army check post at Tang Garhi in North Waziristan with heavy weapons” on Sunday. One soldier was killed, and three Taliban were killed in the counterattack.
Back in Charsadda, the recriminations against both the Taliban and the Pakistani government’s failure to curb its activity abound. “‘These people (seminary students) are the root cause of the problem,’ said a grief-stricken resident of Station Koroona. Other people said extremists were warning people against sending their girls to schools and forcing traders to close their music shops, but the government did not take any action,” Dawn reported.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.