Just one day after Pervez Musharraf’s resignation as the president of Pakistan, the Taliban conducted a deadly strike in the settled district of Dera Ishmael Khan. A Taliban suicide bomber killed 29 Pakistanis and wounded 35 in an attack at the Emergency Ward of District Headquarters Hospital.
Most of those killed were family members visiting the body of a man murdered by the Taliban in a bazaar earlier that day. “The people had gathered around his dead body when the bomber blew himself up,” the Associated Press of Pakistan reported. Five policemen were also killed in the attack.
The Taliban have taken credit for the hospital suicide bombing. An unnamed Taliban spokesman “accepted the responsibility for the blast and warned to carry out more such explosions if operations in Swat and Bajaur were not halted,” the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
The Taliban have repeatedly threatened to reinitiate suicide and bombing attacks throughout Pakistan if the government did not cease military operations in Swat and Bajaur. Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had previously threatened wage “jihad” and turn the provinces of Sindh and Punjab “into a furnace” if the operations did not cease. The Taliban cowed the Pakistani government into signing peace agreements after a vicious suicide and military campaign in 2007 and early 2008 that claimed thousands of Pakistani lives.
Today’s attack is the third major bombing in Pakistan since Aug. 12. Nine Pakistanis, including five policemen, were killed and more than 35 were wounded after a suicide bomber struck during Pakistan’s Independence Day celebration in the city of Lahore in Punjab province on Aug. 13.
The day prior, the Taliban took credit for a deadly bus bombing on a Pakistani Air Force bus in Peshawar. Thirteen Pakistanis, including 10 security officials, were killed and more than a dozen were wounded in the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province.
The hospital attack highlights the deteriorating security situation in the Northwest Frontier Province as the Taliban asserts control outside the tribal areas. Dera Ishmail Khan borders the South Waziristan tribal agencies, which is under the control of Baitullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Tank, which also borders Dera Ishmail Khan and South Waziristan, is effectively under Taliban control.
The government has signed deals with the Taliban in six of the seven tribal agencies that border Afghanistan. Only in Kurram, where the Shia tribes are fighting al Qaeda and Taliban-supported Sunni groups, has yet to fall to the Taliban.
Background on recent peace agreements between the government and the Taliban
The security situation in northwestern Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated since the government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, Khyber, and Orakzai.
The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
On July 23, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.