The Taliban claimed credit for today’s suicide attack that killed 31 Pakistani Army trainees at a military base in the country’s violent northwest.
A teenage Taliban suicide bomber wearing a school uniform walked onto the parade grounds of a military base and detonated his vest as army recruits were gathered for early morning drills. Police said that more than 40 additional soldiers were wounded in the deadly attack.
The attack took place at the Punjab Regiment Center in the city of Mardan in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The suicide bomber was able to get past at least six security checkpoints, according to a report in the BBC.
Taliban spokesmen Azam Tariq and Ihsanullah Ihsan both claimed credit for the Mardan suicide attack, and said attacks would continue until the Pakistan military ceased operations in the tribal areas and also until US Predator strikes, which target Taliban and al Qaeda commanders in the tribal areas, are halted.
The suicide bomber was likely trained by Qari Hussain Mehsud, the Taliban’s master trainer. Qari Hussain recently boasted that within 30 minutes’ time he could convert anyone into becoming a suicide bomber. The US added Qari Hussain to the list of specially designated global terrorists on Jan. 20, 2011.
Qari Hussain has been behind numerous suicide attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the Dec. 30, 2009 suicide attack against the CIA at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA officials and bodyguards, and a Jordanian intelligence officer. Qari Hussain also trained Faisal Shahzad, the operative who came close to detonating a car bomb in Times Square in the heart of New York City on May 1, 2010.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks against security forces and civilians alike in Pakistan’s northwest since mid-January. The Taliban have carried out suicide attacks, bombings, and assassinations in the districts of Peshawar, Kohat, Hangu, Bannu, and Karak over the past month. Scores of security personnel and civilians have been killed in the attacks. [See LWJ reports, Pakistani Taliban step up attacks in northwest, and Taliban execute 4 ‘spies’ in Pakistan’s northwest, for more information.]
The Taliban have claimed credit for these attacks and have cited Pakistani Army operations and US Predator strikes as the reason for the attacks.
Beginning in 2008, the Pakistani military has launched several operations in the tribal areas and in the settled districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in an effort to dislodge the Taliban, but has failed in that objective. The military is currently conducting an offensive against the Taliban Mohmand, a tribal agency it has declared Taliban-free three times since March 2008.
The Taliban have carried out 18 major suicide attacks at Army, police, and intelligence installations in Pakistan since March 2009. Suicide bombers and assault teams have struck bases Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Karma, Multan, and even in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. [See LWJ report, Terror assaults on security targets in Pakistan’s cities, 2009-2011].
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