Both the Islamic State and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed credit for today’s suicide attack at a hospital in the Pakistani city of Quetta that killed scores of people. While the competing claims cannot be verified, both groups are capable of executing the mass-casualty suicide assault.
A suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest that was “packed with ball bearings and shrapnel” at the entrance to the emergency room at Quetta’s Civil Hospital Monday, the head of the city’s bomb disposal unit told Dawn. The victims were primarily lawyers who had gathered to mourn the head of the Baluchistan Bar Association, who was assassinated earlier today. At least 72 people were killed and more than 90 were wounded in the offensive.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a powerful faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan that has executed similar attacks across the country, claimed credit for the assault in an email received by Ishanullah Ihsan, the group’s spokesman. Ihsan also said the group would provide evidence that it carried out the suicide bombing.
“The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar takes responsibility for this attack, and pledges to continue carrying out such attacks. We will release a video report on this soon,” Ihsan said.
The Islamic State also claimed the Quetta bombing in a statement released by Amaq News Agency, which is part of its media network.
“A martyrdom bomber of the Islamic State detonates his explosive belt on a group of personnel belonging to the Ministry of Justice and the Pakistani Police in the city of Quetta,” Amaq stated.
Both Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Islamic State, via its Khorasan province, have the wherewithal to execute today’s suicide bombing.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which is a major faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has its tentacles spread throughout Pakistan. It has executed attacks in all of Pakistan’s provinces, and has not shied away from attacking civilian targets. The US listed Jamaat-ul-Ahrar as a global terrorist group last week.
For instance, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar conducted the Easter Day 2016 suicide assault at the entrance of the Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Ihsan, Jamaat’s spokesman, proudly took credit for the Easter bombings and said that “The target was Christians.”
Jamaat has also carried out a campaign of assassinations against political leaders, including Punjab province’s home minister, and even executed the lawyer for Dr. Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA locate Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.
The Islamic State’s Khorasan province has yet to claim a large scale attack in Pakistan such as the one at the hospital in Quetta. But one of the groups that joined Khorasan province, which is comprised of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has successfully executed sophisticated suicide attacks in Quetta in the past.
In August 2014, the IMU, along with Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and another Paksitnai Taliban faction, launched a complex assault on a Pakistani military airbase in Quetta. And in May 2013, the IMU targeted a security official’s convoy with a suicide strike in a high security area of the city.
It is not uncommon for jihadist groups in Pakistan to issue competing claims of responsibility for invasions. For instance, both Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Jundallah, another Pakistan-based jihadist group, claimed credit for the November 2014 suicide attack at the Wagah border crossing between Pakistan and India. Jamaat later released a martyrdom tape of the suicide bomber, while security forces killed a Taliban commander in Lahore who they claimed was the alleged mastermind of the offensive.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.