The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) claimed credit for a suicide assault at a Pakistani Air Force camp that killed dozens of people early this morning. The attack is the latest in a string of suicide assaults against Pakistani military facilities since the the TTP was formed in 2006.
Mohammad Khurassani, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, claimed the attack in a series of emails as well as a post to the group’s official website, Umar Media. According to Khurassani, a “special suicide squad of 14 fedayeen of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan” hit the Pakistani Air Force camp in Badabair, which is just south of the provincial capital of Peshawar, in the early morning. The Taliban claimed that “frontline Air Force officers” were targeted in the attack, and that “nearly 200 officers have been killed.”
The operation was commanded by Khalifa Umar Mansour, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s leader for Peshawar. Umar Media released a video featuring a speech by Mansour as well as a video of the suicide assault team. Seventeen fighters (pictured above) were shown in the video; three of them had their faces distorted to avoid recognition.
Mansour, who is also known as Umar Narey, has been featured in Taliban propaganda in the past and also led the force that attacked a military high school in Peshawar in December 2014.
Asim Bajwal, the spokesman for the Inter-Services Public Relations branch of the Pakistani military, confirmed the attack and said that the Taliban fighters “came in constabulary uniform.”
“Terrorists entered camp at 2 points,” and “further split in sub [groups],” Bajwal tweeted. The fighters attacked a mosque and killed 16 people, including an Army captain. Another seven people are reported to have been killed in additional fighting. Bajwal claimed that 13 Taliban fighters were killed during the fighting, and also said that a helicopter “made emergency landing due [to] tech fault.”
The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and its branches, allied groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Shabaab, and by the rival Islamic State. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has launched several suicide assaults against Pakistani Air Force facilities in the past. In August 2014, the Taliban, in conjunction with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, executed coordinated suicide assaults on a Pakistani Air Force base in Samungli and the Khalid Army Aviation Base in Quetta. Additionally, in 2007 and 2009, the Taliban attacked the Kamra Air Weapon Complex, which is known to house nuclear weapons, and the Sargodha Air Force Base, which is the command center for the Air Force’s Central Air Command and home to nuclear weapons-capable F-16s and ballistic missiles.
The TTP has also attacked a host of military facilities since it was formed in late 2006. One of the most brazen attacks took place in October 2009, when a suicide assault team penetrated security at Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. In another high-profile suicide assault against a military bases, the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda stormed Pakistani Naval Station Mehran in Karachi and destroyed three P-3C Orion aircraft.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is capable of organizing, training and executing attacks like today’s assault on the Air Force camp near Peshawar despite a military offensive that is targeting the group in North Waziristan. The Pakistani military has targeted the TTP in the country’s tribal areas, but has refused to take on other Taliban factions that provide the group shelter and support, such as the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, the Mullah Nazir Group, and the Haqqani Network. Additionally, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has shifted some of its forces to other areas in northwestern Pakistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh, and in Pakistan’s major cities, as well as in eastern Afghanistan.