Taliban commander Abdullah Mehsud behind Sherpao assassination attempt

Aftermath of the Sherpao suicide bombing. Click to view.

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.

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3 Comments

  • DagneyT says:

    I received an e-mail from Centcom announcing a change of leadership; the new commander is Pakistani. Can someone please explain to me how a Pakistani is in charge of the coalition, when there are still safe havens in his country?
    I can’t decide if it is curious, or disturbing. I’m inclined towards disturbing!!

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Too bad Abdullah Mehsud isn’t still rotting in Guantanamo Bay. I can’t say that I have much good to say for the Bush administrations position in this whole deal. They knew that the every civil rights lawyer in the country would be trying to undercut any legal justification for holding Afghan irregulars as prisoners of war. The administration had a chance to at least try to set legal protocols for how to deal with irregular combatants, but choose instead to keep them by extra legal decree of the executive. It would have been nasty uphill fight to make any new law on the mater, but the Bush administration basically punted on the whole thing. To this day we don’t even have an attempt to really fix the legal structure to deal with irregular combatants. I’m not saying I think anyone could actually fix the problem in the short term. They could have at least forwarded a real plan and had some sort of starting point for the continued debate.
    The problem is this will only get worse when another administration takes power. Guantanamo Bay has a stigma whether deserved or not. If there had been at least a strong attempt at setting some sort of legal structure both parties might at least have their arguments set for what they wanted to do. As things stand the next administration will be hard pressed not to let them all go.
    And yes, this is relevant to Abdullah Mehsud and many others that have been released due to a lack of evidence only to go directly back into action on the warfront. Also, I’m sure there will be those that will play the purely rhetorical argument that no one has absolute proof beyond a doubt that Abdullah Mehsud is involved or that they don’t like the sourcing of any evidence. Despite all attempts by both sides to find ways around the issue someday this problem will have to be addressed. It will be slow and extremely painful.

  • Tony says:

    Is the MUV2 which was used in this attack a plastic explosive? If so, is it traceable and trackable as much of C-4 now is?
    Is the use of plastic explosives common or uncommon in suicide vests and belts?
    Thanks,

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