Pakistan has been hit with yet another deadly suicide attack in the heart of the country. A suicide bomber detonated outside the entrance of a Shia community center in the Chakwal district in Punjab province.
A young man estimated to be 16 or 17 years old exited a car and was stopped at the main gate of an imambargah, a congregation hall for Shia ritual ceremonies. The bomber detonated at the gate, where security personnel were searching the worshippers. More than 24 worshippers have been reported killed and more than 100 have been wounded, some seriously, according to reports.
The Taliban insurgency has spilled over into Pakistan’s Punjab province over the past several months. The Taliban conducted two major assaults in the city of Lahore during March. On March 27, a Taliban assault team attacked a police training center in the city and killed more than 30 police officers and recruits before security forces responded. On March 3, an assault team ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, killing six policemen and a civilian.
During February, the Taliban stepped up attacks in the Punjab districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Mianwali. The Taliban assaulted police stations and checkpoints and conducted a massive suicide attack at a mosque.
The attacks have prompted the Punjab provincial government to consider closing down its borders with the two provinces. Fear of the rising violence led the Punjab government to order the closure of two facilities used by truckers transporting supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Today’s attack is the fourth suicide bombing in Pakistan in five days and the third in three days. Yesterday, a suicide bomber in Islamabad targeted a police camp in the heart of Islamabad, and killed 8 police personnel assigned to protect sensitive facilities and VIPs. Also, in North Waziristan, a suicide bomber targeted a Frontier Corps checkpoint. Seventeen civilians were killed, some in the resultant panic fire by the paramilitary troops.
The Taliban are on pace to exceed last year’s record of 61 suicide attacks in Pakistan. There have been 21 suicide attacks this year. The Taliban have carried out three suicide attacks during the first four days of April, nine in March, five in February, and another three in January.
Today’s attack is also the latest in a series of strikes at mosques and religious services inside Pakistan. The Taliban and allied terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have heavily targeted the Shia minority in Pakistan; however Sunni mosques have been heavily hit as well.
Major attacks at mosques and religious events in Pakistan since December 2007:
April 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 worshippers and wounded more than 100 in an attack outside of a Shia religious center in in the Chakwal district in Punjab province.
March 27, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 70 worshipers and wounded more than 125 in an attack at a mosque in the Khyber tribal agency.
March 5, 2009: An attacker three a hand grenade in the middle of a mosque in Dera Ismail Khan. Twenty-five worshippers
March 2, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six people during an attack at a gathering in a mosque in the Pishin district in Baluchistan.
Feb. 20, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 32 Pakistanis and wounded more than 85 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia elder who was murdered yesterday in Dera Ismail Khan.
Feb. 5, 2009: A suicide attack outside of a mosque killed more than 30 Shia worshipers and wounded more than 50.
Nov. 22, 2008: A bombing at a mosque in Hangu killed five civilians and wounded seven.
Nov. 21, 2008: A suicide attack on a funeral procession in Dera Ismail Khan killed 10 mourners and wounded more than 25.
Sept. 10, 2008: The Taliban attacked a mosque filled with Ramadan worshippers in the district of Dir northwestern Pakistan. More than 25 worshippers were killed and more than 50 were wounded.
Aug. 19, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 29 Shia mourners and wounded 35 after detonating in the emergency ward of a hospital.
June 17, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in a bombing at a Shia mosque in Dera Ismail Khan.
May 19, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed in a bombing outside a mosque in Bajaur.
Jan. 17, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 10 and wounded 25 in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar.
Dec. 28, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a mosque in Charsadda in an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao as he conducted Eid prayers. More than 50 were killed and more than 200 were wounded.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.