Two suicide bombers struck in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, killing 39 people in a simultaneous attack in a neighborhood where the military has a strong presence.
The suicide bombers walked up to Pakistani Army vehicles parked in the R A Bazaar in the South Cantt and detonated their vests.
“There were two suicide bombers who attacked two military vehicles within the space of 15 seconds,” a senior police official told Geo News. Five security personnel were among those killed; 95 people have been wounded.
The South Cantt is “home to army officials and military installations, as well as hospitals and schools run by the military,” according to Dawn.
While no group has claimed credit for the attack, the Taliban is the prime suspect. The Punjabi branch of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said it carried out the March 8 suicide attack in Lahore that targeted the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency, a law enforcement agency that targets terror groups. The Punjabi Taliban said the March 8 attack strike was carried out to avenge the death of Qari Mohammed Zafar, the leader of the al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam, who was killed in a US airstrike in North Waziristan on Feb. 24.
In the recent past the Taliban have targeted military personnel and family members in cantonment in Pakistan’s cities. One of the most high-profile attacks took place in a mosque in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi on December 4, 2009. More than 40 officers, soldiers, and family members were killed in the blast.
Today’s suicide attack is the third this week. Yesterday a suicide bomber detonated his vest prematurely in Peshawar, killing five people. The bomber was targeting a Frontier Corps convoy as it passed through a checkpoint, but he tripped and accidentally detonated his vest.
The military has claimed that the Taliban’s leadership has been dismantled and that the movement is disjointed and unable to conduct operations after the military’s offensives in Swat, Bajaur, and South Waziristan. But the Taliban have regrouped in North Waziristan, Arakzai, Khyber, Kurram, and regions in South Waziristan still under Taliban control, and its top leaders remain free.
Background on jihadist groups in South Punjab
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. In December 2009, the Punjabi provincial government barred foreign reporters from South Punjab, insisting that all reporters must obtain permits before reporting from the area.
“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 that journalists published “twisted and unfounded” facts about terror groups operating there.
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.