A faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, or TTP, claimed credit for two attacks in Karachi that targeted policemen as they guarded members of a polio vaccination team. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has targeted polio vaccination teams in Pakistan’s major cities in the past.
Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar “accepts responsibility for the attack on police in Karachi,” Ihsanullah Ihsan, the official spokesman for the group, said in a statement that was emailed to The Long War Journal.
“This attack is part of ongoing attacks against security forces and police,” Ihsan continued. “We believe the fighting will continue until we achieve the goal of implementing the Islamic system in Pakistan.”
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has stated from its founding in late 2006 that it seeks to overthrow the Pakistani state, implement its harsh version of sharia, or Islamic law, and work toward imposing a global caliphate. The TTP shares the same goals as al Qaeda and is closely allied with the global terror group. It also has stated that it reports to the emir of the Afghan Taliban.
Today’s assaults in Karachi took place in Orangi Town, a hotbed for the Taliban and other Islamist groups. Police officials told Dawn that eight Taliban fighters riding on four motorcycles gunned down the policemen as they were deployed in the dangerous neighborhood.
“The gunmen first opened fire on three policemen in the streets of Orangi Town, killing them all,” Feroz Shah, a senior police official, told Dawn. “Later they shot dead four policemen, who were sitting in a police mobile van” nearby. In both instance, the policemen “were overpowered,” Shah stated.
The Taliban have trained for conducting motorcycle attacks. In a video released in April 2015, the TTP touted its “Mujahideen Special Group,” its version of special forces, and showed its fighters conducting assassinations using a motorcycles. [See LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban promotes ‘Muhajideen Special Group,’ training camp.]
The ambush that occurred today is the largest against the polio vaccination program since Jan. 13, 2016. A TTP suicide bomber detonated among a group of policemen who were guarding the anti-polio drive in Satellite Town in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan. Thirteen policeman and one Frontier Corps officer were killed in the attack. The TTP claimed the attack and said it was executed by a “Special Unit” from the Mujahideen Special Group.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is a dangerous faction of the TTP that has executed numerous suicide attacks inside Pakistan. In one of the most brutal attacks this year, a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomber blew himself up at a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday. Ihsan said the attack intentionally targeted Christians. [See LWJ report, ‘The target was Christians,’ Pakistani Taliban says of Lahore Easter attack.]
Polio vaccination campaign a prime target of the Taliban
The Taliban has devoted resources to disrupt the World Health Organization’s anti-polio vaccination program inside Pakistan. Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was one of the first leaders to have opposed polio vaccinations. On his radio program, Falzullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio, denounced polio vaccinations as Western attempts to sterilize Muslim boys.
Other Taliban commanders, including Mullah Bahadar and Mullah Nazir, who was killed in a US drone strike, as well as Pakistani clerics and leaders in the tribal areas, suspended polio vaccinations in areas under their control until the US ceased drone strikes against Taliban, al Qaeda, and other jihadist commanders.
Taliban commanders have also accused vaccination programs as serving as cover for CIA and western operations to target jihadist leaders inside Pakistan.
“In the garb of these vaccination campaigns, the US and its allies are running their spying networks in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Agencies] which has brought death and destruction on them in the form of drone strikes,” a pamphlet issued by Mullah Nazir in June 2012 stated. “Infidel forces are using media, education, and development as a tool to gag Muslims,” the pamphlet continued.
Nazir’s pamphlet referenced Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who aided the US in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Afridi is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence in Pakistan for false charges of supporting the Laskar-e-Islam, an Islamist terror group based in Khyber.
In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban launched a deadly campaign against the WHO’s vaccination program. Eight medical workers were killed while attempting to vaccinate children in Karachi and Pakistan’s northwest. The WHO shut down the anti-polio drive.