A Pakistan-based terror group known as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi, an offshoot of the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, claimed it executed today’s suicide attack in Kabul that killed more than 50 Shia worshippers. From The Guardian, which has a partial backgrounder on the group:
A spokesman for an obscure Pakistani extremist group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi claimed responsibility in a phone call to Radio Mashaal – a Pashto language radio station.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi is a small faction based in Pakistan’s tribal area and is considered an even more radical offshoot of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, (LeJ), a murderous anti-Shia group founded in 1996. Both groups act as surrogates for al-Qaida.
The Taliban was quick to distance itself from Tuesday’s bombing and the Afghan Taliban has generally avoided sectarian violence. The Pakistani Taliban, however, has its roots in anti-Shia violence, and LeJ acted as the training ground for its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.
LeJ maintained training camps in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime but has not mounted attacks in Afghanistan in recent years. It is believed to have been behind some of the most audacious attacks in Pakistan, including the September 2008 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad and the armed assault on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009.
The group also claimed responsibility for the massacre of 29 Shia pilgrims on a bus in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province in September, and an attack on an Ashura procession in Karachi in 2009 which killed 30 people.
Until now, the splinter group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi was best known for kidnapping two former Pakistani spies and a British journalist in the tribal area last year.
The two former agents with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, Colonel Imam and Khalid Khawaja, were abducted in North Waziristan along with the British journalist Asad Qureshi, who was making a film for Channel 4.
The kidnappers demanded a $25m (£16m) ransom for Imam, who was regarded as the godfather of the original Afghan Taliban for his undercover work in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
Pleas from the leaders of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network of militants went unheeded by the group. Imam and Khawaja were executed. Qureshi was later freed.
The Guardian narrative isn’t 100 percent correct, however, as Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is seen on videotape executing Colonel Imam. See LWJ reports, Hakeemullah Mehsud alive, shown on tape executing former ISI officer, and Taliban, Hakeemullah Mehsud execute Colonel Imam. Given the incestuous relationships between jihadist groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas, it is likely that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi and the Taliban were both involved in Imam’s murder. In fact, the so-called “Asian Tigers” claimed they kidnapped and executed Imam. The Asian Tigers were likely just a mashup of Taliban and LeJ fighters and commanders who were put together for the specific purpose of killing Imam and Khawaja, and thus giving a degree of plausible deniability to both the LeJ and the Pakistani Taliban.
While at present there is no evidence that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi actually carried out the suicide attack in Kabul, the target – Shia worshippers – fits their profile. One thing is clear: the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi, which has never conducted an attack in Afghanistan, must have had help from the Taliban and/or the Haqqani Network in order to execute the suicide bombing. It is highly unlikely that the group would score such a devastating strike on its first try. It probably leveraged the infrastructure of the so-called Kabul Attack Network, which in itself is a network of key elements from the plethora of terror groups operating in and around the capital (al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin).
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.