Two suicide bombers killed 41 people and wounded more than 65 in an attack outside a Sufi shrine in central Pakistan today. The attack is the latest at religious sites and events in Pakistan.
The blasts occurred outside a gate of the Sakhi Sarwar shrine in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province. The attack was designed to maximize casualties, as it took place during a three-day festival honoring the patron saint of the shrine.
Pakistani police arrested a third suicide bomber before he could detonate his vest.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed the attack and threatened to carry out more.
“Our men carried out these attacks and we will carry out more in retaliation for government operations against our people in the northwest,” spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters.
In the past, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the so-called Punjabi Taliban have claimed credit for other on religious institutions in Pakistan. The terror groups have previously attacked Sufi shrines in Karachi and in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Taliban and allied groups consider Sufis to be heretics for worshiping saints, maintaining shrines, and other religious practices.
The Punjabi Taliban includes members and factions of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in particular is well known for carrying out sectarian terror attacks in Pakistan against Sufis and minority Shia, Ahmadis, and Christians.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has integrated with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has an extensive network in Pakistan and serves as al Qaeda’s muscle for terror attacks. The group has conducted numerous suicide and other terror attacks in the tribal areas, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province), Punjab, and the city of Karachi in Sindh province.
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. The terror groups have been supported by Pakistan’s military and the ISI.
South Punjab also teems with radical mosques and madrassas, which are used to indoctrinate Pakistani youths to join the jihad in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tens of thousands of members of these terror groups who have gone through training camps are said to be active in South Punjab.
Taliban target religious sites
Over the past four years, the Taliban and allied Pakistani terror groups have shown no reservations about striking inside mosques and other religious sites, as well as during religious processions and events [see list below]. There have been 33 major attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal.
One of the most brazen attacks took place on Dec. 4, 2009, when a suicide assault team stormed a mosque frequented by military officers in Rawalpindi. Two senior generals were among the 40 people killed.
Another major attack took place on July 1, 2010, when suicide bombers struck the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine in Lahore, killing 41 people and wounding more than 170. Three suicide bombers detonated their vests at the shrine at a time when it was most frequented, in an effort to maximize casualties.
The last major attack against religious targets took place on March 4, when a bomb was detonated at a mosque in Nowshera district in Khyber-Pakhtunkwha province. Nine people were killed in the blast.
Major attacks at mosques, religious events, and Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007:
April 3, 2011: The Taliban killed 41 people in a double suicide attack on a Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan.
March 4, 2011: The Taliban killed nine people in a bombing at a mosque in Nowshera.
Jan. 25, 2011: Suicide attacks that targeted Shia religious processions in Lahore and Karachi killed 16 people. The Fedayeen-e-Islam, a subgroup of the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Mohammed, claimed credit for the Lahore attack.
Nov. 5, 2010: A suicide attack outside a mosque in Darra Adam Khel killed 50 people.
Oct. 25, 2010: Five people were killed when an IED was detonated inside a shrine in Pakpattan.
Oct. 22, 2010: Five people were killed when an IED was detonated inside a mosque in Peshawar.
Oct. 7, 2010: Two suicide bombers killed eight people in a coordinated attack on the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Karachi.
Sept. 3, 2010: A suicide bomber attempted to storm a mosque in Mardan, but was stopped by security guards. One person was killed after he detonated his vest.
Sept. 1, 2010: Suicide bombers detonated during Shia religious processions in Lahore, killing 28 people.
Aug. 23, 2010: A suicide bomber detonated at a mosque in Wana, South Waziristan, killing 18 people.
July 1, 2010: Suicide bombers detonated at the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine in Lahore, killing 41 people and wounding more than 170.
May 28, 2010: The Punjabi Taliban assaulted two Ahamadi mosques in Lahore, killing more than 70 people.
Dec. 18, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated inside a mosque frequented by policemen in Lower Dir, killing 12.
Dec. 4, 2009: A suicide assault team stormed a mosque in Rawalpindi that is frequented by Army officers, killing 40.
Oct. 20, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests at Islamabad’s International Islamic University, killing five.
June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed five Pakistanis, including anti-Taliban cleric Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, in an attack on a mosque in Lahore during Friday prayers.
June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six worshipers and wounded more than 90 in an attack inside a mosque in Nowshera. The attack collapsed the dome of the mosque.
June 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 49 worshipers in an attack on a mosque in a remote village in Dir.
April 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 worshipers and wounded more than 100 in an attack outside a Shia religious center in the Chakwal district in Punjab province.
March 27, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 70 worshipers and wounded more than 125 in an attack at a mosque in the Khyber tribal agency.
March 5, 2009: An attacker threw a hand grenade into the middle of a mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, wounding 25 worshipers.
March 2, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six people during an attack at a gathering in a mosque in the Pishin district in Baluchistan.
Feb. 20, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 32 Pakistanis and wounded more than 85 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia elder who was murdered in Dera Ismail Khan.
Feb. 5, 2009: A suicide attack outside a mosque killed more than 30 Shia worshipers and wounded more than 50.
Nov. 22, 2008: A bombing at a mosque in Hangu killed five civilians and wounded seven.
Nov. 21, 2008: A suicide attack on a funeral procession in Dera Ismail Khan killed 10 mourners and wounded more than 25.
Sept. 10, 2008: The Taliban attacked a mosque filled with Ramadan worshipers in the district of Dir in northwestern Pakistan. More than 25 worshipers were killed and more than 50 were wounded.
Aug. 19, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 29 Shia mourners and wounded 35 after detonating in the emergency ward of a hospital.
June 17, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in a bombing at a Shia mosque in Dera Ismail Khan.
May 19, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed in a bombing outside a mosque in Bajaur.
Jan. 17, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 10 and wounded 25 in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar.
Dec. 28, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a mosque in Charsadda in an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao as he conducted Eid prayers. More than 50 were killed and more than 200 were wounded.
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