The Pakistani Taliban took credit for a suicide attack that killed 11 tribesmen opposed to the Islamist terrorist group and wounded another 25, some critically.
A suicide bomber attacked a tribal meeting at a hotel in the Jandola Frontier Region, an area between the settled district of Tank and the Taliban haven of South Waziristan. The meeting was being held by members of local tribes who have been banded together by Haji Turkestan to oppose the Taliban, Dawn reported. In the past Turkesan was an ally of Baitullah Mehsud but has agreed to side with the government.
Turkestan, who has been the target of four Taliban assassination attempts last year, was not at the meeting. He also was the target of today’s attack, a Taliban spokesman said.
“Tehrik-i-Taliban claims responsibility for the suicide attack in Jandola, aimed at Turkestan,” spokesman Mullah Omar told Dawn.
The Pakistani government has been courting the tribes to support the efforts to take on the Taliban in the tribal areas and in the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. Tribal lashkars, or militias, have been formed in Peshawar, Swat, Dir, Buner, Bajaur, Khyber, and Arakzai. The Taliban have ruthlessly attacked tribal groups organizing resistance. Last fall, the Swat Taliban brutally murdered a tribal leader and placed his body on display to intimidate his fellow tribesmen.
The Taliban hold an advantage over the disparate tribal groups in both organization and fighters. The Taliban are organized throughout the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province, while tribal resistance groups operate independently. The Taliban “out-number and out-gun [resisting tribal groups] by more than 20 to 1,” a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in October 2008. And the tribes receive little support from the government and military. In many cases, they do not want government assistance.
Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has sanctioned attacks on opposing tribal leaders. Over the past 24 hours, Baitullah’s hometown of Makeen was hit in a Predator strike while he had a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the Department of State.
Suicide attacks in Pakistan
Today’s suicide attack marks the fifth such bombing inside Pakistan this month. A March 23 attack outside the Special Branch police station in Islamabad killed one policeman. An attack on March 16 near a market in Rawalpindi, the sister city to Islamabad, killed 14 civilians and wounded 17 more. A March 12 suicide attack outside a fort in the Khyber tribal agency killed three people. And a March 2 suicide attack at a gathering in a mosque in the Pishin district in Baluchistan killed six civilians.
There were five suicide attacks inside Pakistan in February this year and another three in January. The Taliban and al Qaeda conducted 56 suicide attacks in Pakistan during 2007 and another 61 attacks during 2008.
Baitullah has been blamed for the majority of the attacks, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi in December 2007, as well as the deadly Marriott Hotel suicide attack in Islamabad in September 2008. Qari Hussain, one of Baitullah’s deputies, runs suicide training camps for children who are sent to conduct attacks inside of Pakistan and Afghanistan.