Taliban ambush Pakistani forces in Mohmand; bombing in Karachi

Taliban fighters occupy a mosque in Mohmand in the summer of 2007. Click to view.

The Taliban continue to strike at military, government, and civilian institutions in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and beyond. The Taliban ambushed a paramilitary convoy in the tribal agency of Mohmand, while a bombing in Karachi occurred as President Pervez Musharraf was visiting the city.

The Taliban ambushed a convoy of paramilitary troops of the Mohmand Rifles as it traveled from Ghalanai, Geo TV reported. The military claimed seven soldiers were killed in the ambush, while 23 Taliban were killed after it launched a counterattack. Artillery and helicopter gunships were said to have been used in the counterattack.

Maulavi Omar, the Taliban spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the unified Taliban movement in the Northwest Frontier Province, said no Taliban fighters were killed, while 17 members of the Mohmand Rifles were captured. “We’ll not stop our fight until the government withdraws forces and ends operations in tribal regions and Swat,” Omar told Reuters by telephone. The Pakistani military and government has inflated enemy casualties and denied its troops have been captured multiple instances in the past.

The day prior to the Mohmand ambush, the Taliban fired six rockets at the main military installation in Ghalanai. Counterbattery fire from Pakistani troops resulted in one civilian casualty and one home destroyed.

The Pakistani government negotiated a peace accord with the Taliban in August 2007. Mohmand agency saw a marked increase in Taliban activity during 2007, with bombings, rocket attacks, “night letters,” and other attacks. In June, the Taliban threatened pro-government tribal leaders in the agency. “You people are infidels and hypocrites,” the Taliban letter to the tribes stated. “If you don’t stop negotiations with the government and meetings against the Taliban, then explosion(s) will occur in your homes.”

At the end of July, over 100 Taliban fighters occupied a historic mosque and shrine in the tribal agency and renamed it the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, after the Taliban Mosque in Islamabad that was assaulted by the government in mid-July. The Mohmand Taliban is led by Omar Khalid, who claims to have 3,000 armed and trained fighters under his command. After seizing the mosque, Khalid denied links with the Taliban and al Qaeda even as he pledged allegiance to Red Mosque leader Ghazi Abdur Rashid. “If [the Taliban] come to us, we will welcome them,” said Khalid. “We will continue Ghazi Abdur Rashid’s mission even if it means sacrificing our lives.” Khalid also threatened to “use suicide bombers in self defence” if the new Red Mosque was raided. He seeks to “Islamize” the local tribes and plans establishing a “vice and virtue force.”

In the city of Karachi in Sindh province, the Taliban bombed a bus. Eleven civilians were killed and 40 have been reported wounded in the attack. “The bomb was planted on a motorbike and exploded outside a textile factory in the Landi district of Karachi,” a senior police official told the News. President Pervez Musharraf was visiting the city to meet with the new caretaker provincial government.

Karachi was the scene of the first assassination attempt against politician Benazir Bhutto the day of her return in October 2007. More than 132 Pakistanis were killed and upwards of 500 wounded in the complex suicide attack. Bhutto was assassinated two months later at the end of December 2007 in Rawalpindi.

The Karachi bombing is the latest in a series of suicide attacks in Pakistan’s major cities. A suicide bomber claimed the lives of 24 Pakistanis, including 22 police officers in Lahore on Jan. 10, 2008. Multiple attacks have been carried out in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and numerous cities, towns, and military bases throughout Pakistan.

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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