Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat
A suicide bomber has struck again in the settled district of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. The latest attack occurred in the settled district of Charsadda at an election rally held by the Awami National Party, a Pahstun political party. Twenty-five Pakistani civilians have been reported killed and more than 35 have been wounded in the attack.
The suicide attack comes just days after the military halted operations in South Waziristan and the Taliban declared a cease-fire in the tribal regions and the settled district of Swat. It is unclear if the Taliban declared a cease-fire throughout the rest of the Northwest Frontier Province. The new Pakistani interior minister ordered the formation of a peace jirga, or committee, to negotiate with the Taliban. Siraj Haqqani, a Taliban leader wanted by the US military in Afghanistan, was among those involved in the talks.
This is the third major suicide bombing in Charsadda since April 2007. The prior two attacks were directed at former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao. The Taliban targeted Sherpao while he was addressing his political party, the Pakistan People’s Party (Sherpao Group) on April 28, 2007. More than 28 were killed in the suicide attack and scores more wounded, including Sherpao, his son who was a minister in the NWFP assembly, and several other lawmakers and security officials. Taliban commander Abdullah Mehsud was behind the assassination attempt. Abdullah was killed by Pakistani security forces in July 2007.
The last attack occurred Dec. 21, 2007 as Sherpao attended Eid services at a mosque in Charsadda. Sherpao survived the assassination attempt, but more than 50 Pakistanis were killed and 200 wounded in the blast. Sherpao’s son and nephew were among the wounded.
Sherpao was one of the few Pakistani leaders willing to stand up to the Taliban. He advocated fighting the Taliban in the tribal areas and pushed for the July 2007 assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, after policemen and soldiers were kidnapped by members of the Taliban mosque.
Elections are scheduled for Feb. 18, but the Pakistani government is pessimistic about the prospects of conducting polling in the Northwest Frontier Province. Only six of the 24 districts in the Northwest Frontier Province are considered to have a “normal” security situation to allow elections. “Four districts – Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan and Lower Dir – had been declared ‘very sensitive’ while Peshawar, Mardan, Kohat, Karak, Upper Dir, Bunner, Mansehra, Battagram and Kohistan had been placed in ‘sensitive’ category,” Dawn reported. “Only Nowshera, Swabi, Abbottabad, Haripur, Chitral and Malakand have been declared ‘normal’.” The assessment did not take into account for the security situation in the seven tribal agencies.
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