A Taliban suicide bomber killed 90 Pakistanis and wounded more than 100 in an attack in a town in Pakistan’s insurgency-infested northwest.
The suicide bomber detonated his SUV packed explosives as Pakistanis were gathered for a volleyball match in the town of Shah Hassan Khel in the district of Lakki Marwat. \The blast was large enough to cause the roofs of nearby homes to collapse. The death toll may rise as people are still thought to be trapped in the rubble.
The attack is the latest in the Taliban terror campaign, which began on Oct. 5. On Dec. 28, 2009, the Taliban killed 43 people during a Shia procession in Karachi. Asmatullah Bhittani claimed credit for the attack, but Movement for the Taliban in Pakistan spokesman Azam Tariq later denied that the Taliban carried out the attack.
The town of Shah Hassan Khel was recently a stronghold of the Taliban until tribal leaders raised lashkars, or militias, and drove them them out. Tribal leaders said they recruited more than 400 fighters to join the local lashkar in August 2009. The tribal leaders decided to form the lashkar to keep out the Taliban after their homes were looted during a military operation against the Taliban. Tribal leaders blamed the police for looting their homes.
The Taliban have responded aggressively to efforts by tribal leaders to oppose the spread of extremism in the tribal areas. Tribal opposition has been violently attacked and defeated in Peshawar, Dir, Arakzai, Khyber, and Swat. Suicide bombers have struck at tribal meetings held at mosques, schools, hotels, and homes [see LWJ report, “Anti-Taliban tribal militia leader assassinated in Pakistan’s northwest”, for more information on the difficulties of raising tribal lashkars in Pakistan’s northwest].
The Taliban perfected this strategy in North and South Waziristan. Tribal leaders who opposed the Taliban were brutally liquidated. The Taliban would execute the leaders and dump their bodies on the roadside with notes pinned to their chests branding them as “US spies” and traitors. The bodies were often mutilated and beheaded.
This strategy is being duplicated in the tribal areas and throughout the northwest. Tribal leaders are currently being liquidated in Bajaur and Arakzai.
The Taliban have made very public examples of local leaders who have dared to resist. In December 2008, the Swat Taliban executed a local tribal leader named Pir Samiullah, then returned to the village to dig up his body and hang it in the town square. The villagers were warned not to remove his body or they would face the same fate [see LWJ report, “Video: Taliban execute Swat tribal leader”].
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