Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is de facto control; yellow is under threat
Just one day after a missile strike killed upwards of 13 Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in the tribal agency of South Waziristan, a suicide bomber struck in the neighboring settled district of in Lakki Marwat in the Northwest Frontier Province. More than 40 Pakistanis were killed and scores more were wounded, many of them critically, in a suicide bombing at a policeman’s funeral.
The suicide truck bomb was detonated at the funeral of a district policeman who was killed just yesterday along with two other officers in a Taliban improvised explosive device attack. The attack was designed to inflict a large number of casualties as well as insult the service. “Police sources said the blast occurred when police contingent were presenting the last salute of honor to the martyred,” Geo TV reported.
The Taliban have conducted attacks in mosques up and down the Northwest Frontier Province. The most high-profile attack occurred on Dec. 28, 2007, in Charsadda, when a suicide bomber detonated in a mosque in an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao as he conducted Eid prayers. More than 50 were killed and scores wounded. The Taliban also killed the deputy governor of Helmand province, Afghanistan, and five others in a suicide attack in a mosque on Jan. 31, 2007.
Today’s attack is the second high-profile suicide bombing in Pakistan over the past week. On Feb. 25, a suicide bomber killed the Pakistani Army’s surgeon general in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi. Seven others were killed in the attack and 20 were wounded after a Taliban suicide bomber rammed into Lieutenant General Mushtaq Ahmed Baig’s staff car. Mushtaq is the senior-most general killed in Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
Today’s suicide bombing comes one day after the rearrest of senior Taliban leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund in Lahore. Obaidullah was in Lahore raising money to fund Taliban operations in Afghanistan. On Feb. 11, Pakistani security forces also arrested Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, the Taliban’s former military commander in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban responded by kidnapping Tariq Azizuddin, the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, as he traveled through the tribal agency of Kurram. The Taliban have demanded Dadullah’s release in exchange for Azizuddin.
Lakki Marwat borders the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan, where Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Nazir reign, and the Taliban-controlled settled districts of Tank and Bannu. The tribal agencies and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province have been largely quiet since the national elections, but the region suffered a wave of attacks just before Election Day on Jan. 18.
As the attacks in the tribal areas and settled districts continue, the Pakistani government continues its policy of military attacks followed by peace agreements. The Pakistani government signed a new peace agreement with the Taliban in North Waziristan on Jan. 20 after fighting in the tribal areas last fall. The Interior Minister ordered peace negotiations with the Taliban in South Waziristan after several months of fighting.
Reuters reports the Pakistani military may go on the offensive yet again against Baitullah Mehsud, the commander of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. But any offensive would be limited in scope and designed to influence behavior, not defeat Baitullah. “The Pakistani national security establishment is looking more to push back his network, not necessarily capture-kill him,” a US analyst familiar with the Pakistan army’s preparations told Reuters. “They want to decrease his willingness to stand up publicly to the Pakistanis, essentially to marginalize him as a player.”
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