Suicide bomber targets Pakistani intelligence headquarters in Peshawar

The Taliban have struck again in Peshawar. The latest attack targeted the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in the provincial capital. Also, a suicide bomber leveled a police station in Bannu.

So far, 10 Pakistanis have been reported killed and more than 35 have been wounded in the massive blast. A suicide bomber rammed his car into the main gate of the ISI headquarters building and detonated the bomb. The explosion is said to have heavily damaged the ISI headquarters and several other buildings in the surrounding high-security area.

In the nearby district of Bannu, a Taliban suicide bomber killed seven people, including five policemen, and wounded 25 more in an attack on a police station. The police station is reported to have been leveled in the attack. The attack took place in the Baka Khel region, one of two areas known to harbor al Qaeda operatives. The neighboring region of Jani Khel is known to have hosted al Qaeda’s central treasury and has served as the meeting place for al Qaeda’s executive council.

The two attacks are the latest in the Taliban’s terror offensive, which began on Oct. 5. The Taliban and allied jihadi groups have launched military assaults against the Army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and against police centers in Lahore. In addition, suicide bombers have struck in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar, Kohat, Swat, Charsadda, Bannu, and Shangla.

More than 300 Pakistanis, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Taliban strikes [see list below]. Peshawar has been hard hit in the Taliban offensive, which has also included military strikes in the tribal areas of Bajaur, Mohmand, Arakzai, and Bannu. Just yesterday the Taliban killed 10 soldiers and captured eight more in an IED strike and an ambush in Mohmand.

The military is currently on the offensive against Hakeemullah Mehsud’s faction of the Taliban in South Waziristan. The military said 22 Taliban fighters and five soldiers were killed in South Waziristan in the past 24 hours. The military has reported that 524 Taliban fighters and only 53 soldiers have been killed since the operation was launched on Oct. 17. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders, operatives, or military commanders have been killed or captured during the operation, however.

Al Qaeda blames ‘Blackwater’

Both the Taliban and al Qaeda have denied conducting the suicide attacks that have killed civilians in markets. Just today, Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan, said the “mujahideen only target the army, security forces of the apostate state [Pakistan], and intelligence [agencies] that are responsible for shedding the blood of the weak in Swat, Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Arakzai, and elsewhere.”

Instead, Yazid blamed “Blackwater and other criminal groups” for conducting the attacks as “part of the dirty war that they practice,” according to a translation of Yazid’s statements obtained by The Long War Journal. Blackwater renamed itself Xe in October 2007.

“Today, everyone knows that Blackwater and other criminal groups have violated Pakistan with support from this corrupt and criminal government [Pakistan] and its security agencies,” Yazid said in an audio statement released on the Internet. “They commit these ugly actions and blame them on the mujahideen through their media outlets in order to tarnish the image of the mujahideen and Muslims.”

The Pakistani state has helped feed such conspiracy theories by blaming India and other “foreign powers” for backing the Taliban. Some Pakistanis refuse to believe the Taliban would conduct such attacks on their own countrymen and fellow Muslims.

Major Taliban attacks in Pakistan since Oct. 5:

Nov. 13, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 10 people in an attack on the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in Peshawar.

Nov. 13, 2009: A suicide bomber wounded 10 people in an attack on a police station in Bannu.

Nov. 10, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 people in a market in Charsadda.

Nov. 9, 2009: A suicide bomber killed four people during an attack at a police checkpoint outside Peshawar.

Nov. 8, 2009: A suicide bomber killed an anti-Taliban leader and 12 others in an attack at a market in the town of Matni near Peshawar.

Nov. 5, 2009: An Army brigadier and a soldier were wounded in an ambush in Islamabad.

Nov. 2, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed 34 Pakistanis and wounded scores more in an attack in Rawalpindi.

Nov. 2, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers killed one policeman and wounded 25 security officers and civilians after the pair detonated their vests at a security checkpoint.

Oct. 28, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed 119 Pakistanis and wounded hundreds more in an attack on a bazaar in Peshawar.

Oct. 27, 2009: A brigadier general who served as the director of defense services guards at the Army General Headquarters escaped an assassination attempt in Islamabad.

Oct. 23, 2009: The Taliban detonated an anti-tank mine and hit a bus transporting a wedding party in Mohmand. The explosion killed 15 of the passengers and wounded six more.

Oct. 23, 2009: The Taliban detonated a car bomb outside a popular restaurant in the residential Hayatabad area in Peshawar. The attack wounded 13 civilians; nine are said to be in critical condition.

Oct. 23, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed seven people during an attack at a security checkpoint near the Kamra Air Weapon Complex in the district of Attock in Punjab province.

Oct. 21, 2009: The Taliban assassinated a brigadier general and his driver during an ambush in Islamabad.

Oct. 20, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests at Islamabad’s International Islamic University, killing five.

Oct. 16, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers, including a female, attacked a police station and a building housing an intelligence service in Peshawar, killing 11.

Oct. 15, 2009: Terrorist assault teams attacked the Federal Investigation Agency building, the Manawan police training center, and the Elite Force Headquarters in Lahore. Twenty-six people, including nine terrorists and 12 policemen, were killed.

Oct. 15, 2009: A suicide bomber rammed a car into a police station in Kohat, killing 11 people, including policemen and children.

Oct. 12, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives as a military convoy passed through a checkpoint in a market in Alpuri in Shangla. The attack killed 41 people, including six security personnel.

Oct. 10, 2009: An assault team attacked the Army General Headquarters and took 42 security personnel captive. Eleven soldiers were killed, including a brigadier general and a lieutenant colonel, along with nine members of the assault team; and 39 hostages were freed.

Oct. 9, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives in a bazaar in Peshawar, killing 49 civilians.

Oct. 5, 2009: A suicide bomber entered the World Food Program office in Islamabad and detonated his vest, killing five UN workers, including an Iraqi.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • doug says:

    Can you give us any more info on the offensive in S w’stan? Is the Pak army continuing to make progress or are they losing ground? It’s hard to find anything reliable in the media.

  • Caroe says:

    Thank you, Bill, for all your excellent articles.
    A few questions have sprung to mind recently:
    The Pakistani military has a bad track record in South Waziristan. Do you think this time things will be different?
    How big a blow to the TTP and al Qaeda do you think the current operation in SWA is? Obviously it is disruptive but, given that they are active in other tribal agencies, what is to stop them withdrawing and regrouping elsewhere.
    Re the recent attack on the ISI in Peshawar: Will the TTP be able to thrive without ISI protection? The intelligence services are usually cited as the reason why the various Taliban groups are able to operate with relative impunity in FATA and the NWFP.
    Many thanks.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 11/13/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Glenmore says:

    How widely believed are the T-aQ claims that they are not the market bombers, but that Blackwater (or CIA or Mossad, etc.) are doing it? I have no way to know, but since it doesn’t seem entirely impossible even to me, I have to figure it’s getting some traction there. Of course I figure the Chinese or Iranians or ….. could be responsible too. I ‘Trust No One.’

  • Neo says:

    Is it Bill the oracle that you seek to divine the future? Good questions, but you are asking for quite a lot.

  • DANNY says:

    Ask the people who saw the Taliban & AQ riding around in cars showing off severed heads, trying to control the people, who is capable of bombing markets. Evil has no bounds. AQ did it in Iraq they will do it in Pakistan. The ones who brag about cutting off heads may win the battle, but they will not win the war.

  • Victor says:

    The ISI building bombing seems to be an inside job designed to earn sympathy from the US. The bomber struck at dawn on the weekly holiday (Friday). The office was empty and the building was completely destroyed.
    No employ of the Pakistani Army or the ISI came to harm. The casualties were the hired security guards and some stray civilians. A ‘real attack’ would not have happened on a holiday.
    Were the US authorities seeking some papers or information from the ISI which were conveniently destroyed in this blast?

  • Neo says:

    To be serious, those are the same type of questions the policy makers would like some insight into. No one can really definitively answer them. The best they can do is try to analyze answerable aspects that will influence outcomes.
    Some things have changed in South Waziristan other things have stayed the same from previous years. During the Musharraf administration there was little public support for operations against the Taliban. The number of troops that went in was very small and their heart was definitely not in the fight. If the Pakistani army had gone in big at that time they probably would have failed anyway, since they had no desire to fight the Taliban. The Musharraf administration may well have ended up with a serious revolt in the ranks if it tried to force a showdown.
    Since that time the Taliban has undermined their position by aggressively terrorizing Pakistani civilians and waging a war against the State. For example, at the time of the World Trade Center bombing around 70 percent of the Pakistani population at least sympathized with the Taliban, and thought that the United States got what it deserved. It is only during the last two years that public sympathy has changed. The Pakistani population is still largely hostile to the United States, but also sees the Taliban as an enemy. Around 80 percent now support government action in Southern Waziristan. The Taliban can only blame itself for loss of public support.
    As for the Pakistani army, they did much better in the Swat campaign this year, once the regular army got involved and fought with some conviction. The Taliban also didn’t stand very well in Swat district and hasn’t been able to really regroup in the area.
    Waziristan is another can of worms altogether. The campaign in Southern Waziristan does punish the Meshud clan but doesn’t seriously damage Taliban infrastructure to the degree that it would immediately effect Taliban operations elsewhere. It might limit the expansion of Taliban operations into new areas though. To really impact the Taliban the Pakistani army will eventually have to directly pressure Northern Waziritan.
    What sort of staying power the Pakistani military has in Southern Waziristan is difficult to gauge. Right now the Pakistani’s seem to be fairly good at standard infantry tactics but I am not sure how good they are at defending themselves in static warfare. There best strategy is probably to keep slowly pushing the Taliban with offensive operations. That at least keeps the Taliban busy and forces them to either fight or lose assets.
    Lastly, I think losing ISI cooperation might have a significant long term impact on the Taliban. They aren’t going to lose all ISI cooperation overnight and the effects might be delayed but I think their operations have already been degraded somewhat. The Taliban doesn’t seem to have a clear intelligence advantage anymore. Any further breakdown would be seen over time.
    All of this is not a stagnant situation, things are definitely moving and happening but the open question is what direction. At this juncture, that is still very uncertain. Next year will be a very big year. The war may go on for years but the direction of outcome may be largely determined within the next 18 months.
    Sorry, but that’s the best us folks in the peanut gallery can give you for an answer. I’m not sure Bill can afford to give definitive answers to such big questions, or should even try. Bill has to be guarded about keeping his credibility. I’m just a curious onlooker with a big mouth, and no credibility to worry about. I hope that helps in any case.

  • Neo says:

    Victor said: “The ISI building bombing seems to be an inside job designed to earn sympathy from the US. The bomber struck at dawn on the weekly holiday (Friday). The office was empty and the building was completely destroyed.”

  • Aamer says:

    @ Victor
    Sunday and NOT Friday is the weekly holiday in Pakistan. It is also not correct that no member of army was harmed. Could you please identify your sources.

  • Caroe says:

    Dear Neo,
    Many thanks for your thoughts on the above questions.
    Best wishes.


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