55 Pakistanis killed in violence in Khyber

At least 55 Pakistanis were killed in the contested tribal agency of Khyber today in a suicide bombing outside a mosque and an ambush on a military outpost. The outburst of violence takes place just two weeks after Khyber’s political agent said military operations have “broken the back” of terrorists operating in the tribal agency.

In the first attack, the Lashkar-e-Islam, a radical, Taliban-like group that operates in Khyber, killed 10 Pakistani soldiers after ambushing a military checkpoint in Khyber’s Tirah Valley. Pakistani troops manning the outpost returned fire and claimed to have killed 23 Lashkar-e-Islam fighters.

In the second attack, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his vest outside a mosque in the Tirah Valley known to be frequented by members of the Lashkar-e-Islam. Twenty-two people were reported killed. The Lashkar-e-Islam claimed that only six of their fighters were killed in the attack.

The Taliban claimed credit for the suicide attack, and said it was carried out to avenge the deaths of several Taliban fighters at the hands of the Lashkar-e-Islam last month, according to the BBC.

Today’s attacks cap a week of violence in Khyber, which included the killing of two women and a child in an IED attack on Feb. 29, and a clash on Feb. 24 that resulted in the deaths of seven Lashkar-e-Islam fighters and three Pakistani soldiers.

The week of violence occurs after the tribal agency’s political agent said a military operation designed to sever the Tirah Valley from other areas of Khyber was so successful that it has “broken the back of Lashkar-i-Islam that has remained unchallenged in the area for seven years.”

The Lashkar-e-Islam is run by Mangal Bagh [for more information, see LWJ report, A profile of Mangal Bagh]. The group has established its own Taliban-like government in large areas of the tribal agency, including in Bara, Jamrud, and the Tirah Valley. It also provides recruits to battle US and Afghan forces across the border, and has attacked NATO’s vital supply line moving through Khyber before it was shut down by the Pakistani government last November. The Pakistani military has targeted the Lashkar-e-Islam during multiple operations over the past five years, each time declaring the group defeated. But the military has failed to dislodge the group from power.

The Lashkar-e-Islam occasionally allies with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and occasionally feuds with the terror group. Tariq Afridi, a powerful Taliban commander based in Darra Adam Khel, has taken control of Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s operations in Khyber.

Lashkar-e-Islam’s main enemy, particularly in the Tirah Valley, was the Ansar-ul-Islam, a rival radical Deobandi group based in the area that is supposedly banned by the Pakistani government. In the past, the two groups have fought each other for control over the Tirah Valley, and have even attacked each other using suicide bombers. The Lashkar-e-Islam has gained the upper hand over the Ansur-ul-Islam over the past several years.

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 Pakistani border from Nangarhar. US strike aircraft and artillery killed seven Taliban fighters during the hot pursuit.

The US has also launched several drone strikes in Khyber while hunting senior terrorist leaders. In 2010, US Predators killed Ibn Amin, a Taliban and al Qaeda commander, in one of four strikes between Dec.16 and Dec.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.

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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16 Comments

  • Mr T says:

    Did any Korans get burned in the bombing outside the Mosque? I guess if you kill yourself while blowing up Korans, there is no one left to punish for Korans being burned. Or maybe the leaders who planned it should suffer retribution.

  • Shalu Sharma says:

    It is extremely sad to see people killing each other in Pakistan like this. If this was somewhere else in the world, it would have been all over the news but in Pakistan, people simply have become numb to these news. So sad really.

  • Ben says:

    ISI-bashing has now become a favorite pastime for the media and the politicians. This bashing reasserts the perception being created by the Western and Indian media that this agency is behind every ill in Pakistan. This, unfortunately, is far from the reality. Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency is not doing anything which other agencies of note in other countries are not doing. CIA, MI5 and MOSSAD are actively involved in perusing their respective national interests but neither their roles and activities nor the appointment of their chief and their budget is so callously discussed by their politicians. ISI and military establishment are being presented in a bad light for the reason that these institutions have publically emerged as the major custodians of the national interest. Go and ask the common man; establishment is the savior of the last resort, and first choice, for a majority of people. Read more at: //passivevoices.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/voiceless-and-faceless-establishment-is-the-only-custodian-of-the-national-interest/

  • Mint says:

    Wow some good news. They are killing each other let’s leave them alone maybe they will all kill each other.

  • canuck says:

    It is hard to take sides in this conflict. Therefore it is best just to stand back and count the bodies after pulling out all Western agencies.

  • Reco says:

    Good Job, Muslims. Keep up the good work of Killing each other so there will be less of you for NATO to deal with. Muslims KILLING Muslims = a Safer world for Non-Muslims.

  • Villiger says:

    Ben, your comment highlights what a crude world you live in. Btw, you must be nuts if you think anyone here is going to bother connecting with your kind of Neanderthal-level propaganda, leave alone hitting your link. But if you’re saying nuts are more common in Pakistan than elsewhere, I would agree with you in a second.

    Shalu, I’m not sure of the process of your sadness. Would you rather they come to kill you and me? Aren’t Pak’s terror machines doing just that?

    Reco, your maths adds up!

  • Eddie D. says:

    I wondered why Happy Hour was extended.

  • Neo says:

    I wouldn’t get your hopes up about Taliban groups fighting each other. They have been taking occasional swipes at one another since at least 2005.

  • TLA says:

    Ben, it’s always worth randomly throwing in the names of the CIA, Mossad or MI5 into online rants isn’t it? What are Britain’s internal intelligence service doing in Pakistan/Afghanistan please?

  • Barry Larking says:

    Mr T. (above) correctly highlights the hypocrisy of those Moslems who were outraged at the burning of the Holy Qur’an. (Burning ‘defiled’ Qur’ans is an accepted practice incidentally.) The world has now been shown the careless way Moslems kill each other and desecrate the graves of the dead of older wars – but care so passionately about paper.

  • bard207 says:

    Ben,
    I searched for references to “ISI” on this web page and you were the only person that mentioned it. So you apparently are going Off Topic. Why are you unable to Stay On Topic in this Discussion thread?

  • madashell59 says:

    Barry Larking: I had wondered whether the a Qur’an that had been touched by a so called infidel would be defiled. And if so would need to be burned. If that was true the real story of the Burning of the Qur’an could have been a setup. Let me explain. The prisoners are caught sending messages through the Qur’an so they are all confiscated and checked afterward some one complains that by their religion the Qur’ans need to be burned since they have been defiled knowing that they can now say that the bad Western soldiers desecrated the Qur’ans to provide a reason for violence that will be tolerated.
    Will these people ever live in peace? When should the rest of the world become like the Alien from the movie “When the earth stood still” and give them the choice to either shape up or else.

  • Spooky says:

    Or you all could stop generalizing and trivializing the effect of burning korans, which has nothing to do with the post made by Bill. Likewise with the ISI. Nothing to do with this.
    But that would, of course, require thinking beyond black and white.

  • Neonmeat says:

    @ Spooky.
    I think the issue many people have in trying to understand the Quran burning incident is that many Qurans are destroyed by Taliban and AQ bomb attacks on Shrines and Mosques and this seems to cause no problem for the Afghan Muslims.
    If we look further into the protests they happened in areas where ISAF Forces are not deployed in large numbers, therefore the local populus have less contact and a weaker relationship with the Foreign forces. Friday prayers and Islamic radio stations built up the anger in these areas and mobilised the people. Radio stations out of Iran are also to blame for stirring up the hatred.

  • bard207 says:

    Spooky,
    Many of the people that comment – post here at the LWJ are seeking some logical consistency and/or an explanation for the logical inconsistency from what the people native to the Af-Pak region do and won’t do in regards to an incident
    of damage – desecration to their Mosques and Korans.
    When ISAF – U.S. forces have an incident in that region, crowds come out and display rage, passion, indignation etc and the projection back to the Western World is that was the worst possible thing that could be done against a Muslim.
    When the Taliban and related radicals have an incident were mosques and/or Korans are
    damaged – desecrated, the level of protest against the culprits (Taliban and related radicals) and their leadership is quite muted if it happens at all.
    When some in the Western World ask for an explanation for the huge difference in the reactions to incidents involving the ISAF – U.S. versus incidents involving the Taliban and similar radicals, the reason given is that people fear retribution against themselves and/or their families if they protest too loudly against the Taliban and similar radicals.
    We can understand the reasoning of people wanting to safeguard their lives and the lives of their families, but then that severely weakens the
    suggestion – thesis that they should strongly protest and react when the ISAF – U.S. forces have an incident.
    Either the safety of oneself and the immediate family is the #1 priority or the safety and protection of religion related such as mosques and Korans is the #1 priority.
    The people who frequent the LWJ would probably be satisfied if those native to the Af-Pak region Stood Up all of the time
    whether it was an incident by the ISAF – U.S. or by the Taliban and similar radicals.
    Since it is very evident that the natives in the Af-Pak region are inconsistent in their level of rage, passion, indignation etc. when incidents occur, that is why it continues to be noted by some here at the LWJ and likely other places on the Internet.
    Since the situation on the ground in the Af-Pak region hasn’t changed favorably for the Western world, the inconsistency on the #1 priority (family vs religion) for those native to that region will probably continue.
    The lack of enough people to Stand Up against the religious radicals is a problem in
    the Muslim world that extends far beyond the Af-Pak region.

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