A suicide bomber killed more than 40 people and wounded more than 100 in an attack today at a mosque in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Khyber.
The bombing took place at a mosque in the village of Ghundi in the Jamrud area of Khyber. The suicide bomber detonated his vest just after Friday prayers ended.
“It was a suicide attack. The bomber was wearing about 8-10 kg of explosives and was on foot. He detonated in the main prayer hall,” a Pakistani official told Geo News.
No group has take responsibility for the attack, but the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is known to operate in the area. In the past, the Pakistani Taliban have targeted tribal leaders and local officials who attempt to raise militias to oppose Taliban rule. The Taliban have attacked anti-militant leaders in mosques in the past [see list below].
Khyber agency is a terrorist haven
Khyber has become a hub of Taliban and al Qaeda activity since the Pakistani military launched an operation in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan in October 2009. Taliban forces have relocated to the Bara and Jamrud regions and the Tirah Valley in the Khyber agency [see LWJ report, Taliban escape South Waziristan operation].
Tariq Afridi, a powerful Taliban commander based in Darra Adam Khel, has taken control of Taliban operations in Khyber. The Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam, a local Taliban ally commanded by Mangal Bagh, have gained power in Khyber despite a series of Pakistani military operations that began in the summer of 2007 which were supposedly designed to relieve Taliban pressure on neighboring Peshawar. A total of five military offensives have failed to dislodge the terror groups.
Both the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam are known to operate bases and training camps in the Tirah Valley as well as in Bara and Jamrud. These safe havens in Khyber enable these terror groups to launch attacks inside Pakistan as well across the border in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan. In November 2008, the US military attacked Taliban forces in the Tirah Valley after they retreated across the border from Nangarhar in Afghanistan. US strike aircraft and artillery killed seven Taliban fighters during the hot pursuit.
In 2009, US Predators killed Ibn Amin, a Taliban and al Qaeda commander, in one of four strikes between Dec.16-17 in the Tirah Valley. Amin was the commander of the Tora Bora Brigade, one of six formations in al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army. He operated in the Swat Valley.
The Khyber Pass is NATO’s main conduit for supplies into Afghanistan; an estimated 70 percent of NATO’s supplies move through this strategic crossing point. Between September 2007 and April 2008, the Khyber Pass was shut down seven times due to Taliban attacks.
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. There have been 34 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 April 3, when a pair of suicide bombers killed 41 people in an attack at a Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province.
Major attacks at mosques, religious events, and Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007:
Aug. 19, 2011: More than 40 people were killed in a suicide attack at a mosque in Jamrud in the Khyber tribal agency.
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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