Taliban suicide bomber kills 9 in Hangu; 6 police killed in ambush in Khyber

The Taliban carried out two attacks in the violent northwestern region of Pakistan today. A suicide bomber killed nine Pakistanis, including four policemen, in Hangu; and six policemen were killed in an IED attack in the tribal agency of Khyber.

In Hangu, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a police checkpoint. Four policemen manning the checkpoint and five civilians passing by were killed in the massive blast, Dawn reported.

In Khyber, six tribal police, known as khasadars, were killed in an ambush while patrolling the Alam Gudar area of Khyber.

Since the beginning of January, the Taliban have intensified their attacks on security forces and civilians alike in Hangu and Khyber, as well as in Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Mardan, and Karak [see LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban step up attacks in northwest]. The Taliban have claimed credit for suicide attacks, ambushes, and assaults on the police and military, as well as on government officials and Shia minorities in the region.

The Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam, an affiliated group, both operate in Khyber. Both groups routinely target NATO convoys carrying fuel and supplies for Coalition troops operating in Afghanistan. The last major attack, on Feb. 25, killed four Pakistani drivers and destroyed 11 fuel trucks. Both groups conduct operations with al Qaeda and shelter al Qaeda operatives.

Commander Tariq Afridi is the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in Khyber, as well as in regions in Peshawar, Kohat, and Hangu. Afridi was named the terror group’s commander of Khyber in November 2009. Afridi is also the leader of the Commander Tariq Afridi Group. This Taliban outfit is considered the most powerful terror group in Arakzai, and is based in Darra Adam Khel. The Tariq Afridi Group conducts attacks on Pakistani security forces in Arakzai, Kohat, and Hangu. His fighters were responsible for closing down the Kohat Tunnel twice in 2008.

In early 2009, the Commander Tariq Afridi Group claimed the murder and beheading of Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak. In early 2010, operating under the guise of an outfit named the “Asian Tigers,” the group kidnapped former ISI officer and jihadist sympathizer Khalid Khawaja, along with Col. Imam, who was known as “Father of the Taliban”; both men were later murdered by the Taliban.

The Lashkar-e-Islam is a Taliban-like group run by Mangal Bagh [for more information, see LWJ report, A profile of Mangal Bagh]. Based in Khyber, the Lashkar-e-Islam has established its own Taliban-like government in large areas of the tribal agency, including Bara, Jamrud, and the Tirah Valley. The group provides recruits to battle US and Afghan forces across the border, and attacks NATO’s vital supply line moving through Khyber. The Pakistani military has targeted the Lashkar-e-Islam during five operations since 2008, but has failed to dislodge the group from power.

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

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