A Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 40 Pakistanis during an attack at a mosque in the district of Dir in the insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province.
The suicide bomber entered the mosque compound in the remote village of Hayagai Sharqai and attempted to detonate his explosive vest in the middle of a crowd of worshipers attending Friday prayers. The small mosque was leveled in the attack, and Pakistani officials believe the death toll will rise.
“We fear the death toll may rise to 45 because people are still trapped under the debris. Rescue work is under way and there are body parts scattered in the courtyard of the mosque,” Atifur Rehman, the senior government officer in Upper Dir, told AFP. More than 70 people were wounded in the bombing.
Today’s suicide attack is the latest in a series of strikes at mosques and religious services inside Pakistan [see list below]. The Taliban and allied terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have heavily targeted the Shia minority in Pakistan; Sunni mosques have been heavily hit as well, however.
The Taliban targeted a mosque in Dir one other time in the past year. On Sept. 10, 2008, more than 25 civilians were killed and more than 50 were wounded when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque filled with Ramadan worshipers. The attack targeted tribal leaders and members who were forming a lashkar, or local militia, to oppose a Taliban advance in the region. The tribal opposition to the Taliban was crushed by the attack.
The Taliban also conducted a deadly attack against policemen in the district of Mardan, which borders Buner and Swat to the south. Six policemen and a Frontier Corps trooper were killed after the Taliban set up a complex ambush in a mountainous region of the district. The Taliban opened fire on the security forces patrol from the hilltops. One Taliban fighter was killed and another was captured during the three-hour gunfight.
The attacks take place as the military cites gains against the Taliban in Buner, Swat, and Dir. The Pakistani military claims that more than 1,300 Taliban fighters and 90 soldiers have been killed during the offensive, which has been active for more than six weeks. But the military has not reported civilian casualties, and many reports indicate that civilians killed during the operation are being lumped in with the Taliban dead.
The military is still pushing through Swat, Dir, and Buner while the Taliban have conducted tactical retreats after putting up moderate resistance. The military has failed to block the Taliban retreat as it assigned too few forces to the operation. Some Taliban units have eluded the military operation and established bases in the neighboring districts of Haripur, Mansehra, Shangla, Swabi, and Battagram. Others have melted away with the more than 2.4 million internally displaced persons who have fled the battlefield.
Major attacks at mosques and religious events in Pakistan since December 2007:
April 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 worshipers and wounded more than 100 in an attack outside a Shia religious center 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 threw a hand grenade into the middle of a mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, wounding 25 worshipers.
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 in Dera Ismail Khan.
Feb. 5, 2009: A suicide attack outside 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 worshipers in the district of Dir in northwestern Pakistan. More than 25 worshipers 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.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.