A suicide assault team killed 12 people while targeting the Pakistani Army in the city of Multan in South Punjab. The Multan attack is the first in that city in the Taliban’s latest terror campaign, and the third major terrorist attack in Pakistan’s major cities in two days.
Members of the assault team dismounted from a white van and engaged security guards at a checkpoint outside the Army building, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan.
“Security personnel tried to stop a white pick up approaching the post at Qasim Bela,” APP reported. “One of the terrorists came out of the van and opened firing on the security personnel. Others threw hand grenades and blasted [from] the vehicle, leaving three security personnel dead.”
Members of the terror assault team then entered the building and opened fire, according to Geo News. A doctor put the number of people killed in the attack at 12 and said the Army building that was the target of the attack was “badly damaged.”
“We have recovered 12 dead bodies and more than 18 injured,” the doctor told AFP. “Most of the dead are civilians. There were also some security men among the dead. This building belongs to the army. It’s badly damaged.”
The building was said to be owned by a “sensitive agency,” according to the report in Geo News. A spokesman for the Inter-Services Intelligence agency later confirmed the organization owned the building.
The Taliban have been targeting the counterterrorism section of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency as well as the Pakistani Central Intelligence agency. The ISI counterterrorism branch is responsible for targeting the Taliban and is supported by the US. The Taliban destroyed an ISI counterterrorism section building in Peshawar on Nov. 13, as well as the Pakistani Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Lahore on Oct. 16.
Today’s suicide attack in Multan follows bombings yesterday in Lahore, Punjab, and Peshawar. Fifty-five Pakistanis were killed in attacks in a market in Lahore and outside a courthouse in Peshawar.
The attack in Multan is the first in South Punjab since the Taliban began their latest terror campaign on Oct. 5. Over the past several years, the cities of South Punjab have previously been exempt from Taliban and allied terror group attacks. The attacks have focused on the major cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Peshawar, and in Pakistan’s lawless Northwest Frontier province.
But in May, the Taliban indicated it would seek to expand the terror strikes into South Punjab. Hakeemullah Mehsud, then the deputy to Taliban leader Baitullah and now his successor, singled out Multan as part of the Taliban’s target package.
“Residents should leave the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Multan,” Hakeemullah said, warning that government institutions will be targeted, after he took credit for a series of attacks on police and intelligence services in Lahore in May.
Last year, Baitullah had threatened to wage “jihad” and turn the provinces of Sindh and Punjab “into a furnace” if the operations in northwestern Pakistan did not cease.
South Punjab is a hotbed of Pakistani terror groups. Banned terror groups Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, and its radical offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are all active in South Punjab. These groups have taken up common cause with the Taliban and al Qaeda, and are often referred to as the Punjabi Taliban. The terror groups have been supported by Pakistan’s military and the ISI.
South Punjab teems with radical mosques and madrassas, which are used to indoctrinate Pakistani youths to join the jihad. Tens of thousands of members of these terror groups who have gone through training camps are said to be active in South Punjab.
The Pakistani government has denied that terror groups are based in South Punjab. Just last week, the government barred foreign reporters from South Punjab, insisting they can only report from the area after obtaining a permit.
“All foreign journalists are required to get permission from foreign affairs as well as from interior ministries for visiting any specific place especially in South Punjab,” a senior officer of the Punjab government told the Press Trust of India. The official claimed journalists published “twisted and unfounded” facts about terror groups operating there.
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