The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a devastating suicide bombing carried out in Mastung, Baluchistan earlier today.
The group’s Amaq News Agency first issued two brief statements on the attack, noting in the second that approximately 80 people had been killed. The Islamic State subsequently released a third, longer statement on the bombing, as well as a picture of its supposed “martyr.” The bomber was identified as Abu Bakr al-Pakistani (pictured above).
The death toll has risen to more than 120 people, with dozens more wounded, according to Pakistani officials who briefed Agence France-Presse (AFP).* It is one of the worst bombings in recent memory inside Pakistan.
The so-called caliphate says one of the victims was a “Pakistani intelligence” official who was participating the elections. It appears that the group is referring to Siraj Raisani, a candidate for elected office in Pakistan. AFP reports that Raisani, “who was running for a provincial seat with Balochistan Awami Party (BAP),” perished as he was being transported to the hospital for treatment of his wounds.
The Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (or Khorasan “province”) grew in Afghanistan and Pakistan by poaching mid-level commanders and fighters from the Taliban and other jihadi groups. While this undoubtedly fueled the Islamic State’s initial growth in the region, it has also led to conflicting claims of responsibility for operations in the past. At times, more than one group has claimed credit for the same operation. US officials have also blamed the Taliban’s Haqqani Network for attacks claimed by the Islamic State.
The confusion may be due, in part, to the fluid nature of the underlying jihadi networks, with personnel shuffling between organizations.
Still, Wilayah Khorasan continues to operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, claiming a string of operations in both countries in recent weeks. Last month, the self-declared caliphate’s representatives attacked both the Taliban and Afghan government officials, among others.
Sunni jihadists have carried out at least two attacks on election-related events in recent days. On July 10, a Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber targeted a rally held by the secular Awami National Party in Peshawar, killing and wounding dozens of people.
Both the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State’s arm in South Asia reject any participation in democratic elections, declaring them to be impermissible under their interpretation of Islamic law.
In recent days, the Pakistani Taliban released a booklet condemning elections. The treatise was compiled by one of its ideologues, Khalid Haqqani. Separately, Haqqani has answered questions surrounding the elections, forbidding anyone from participating in them. The Pakistani Taliban also warned civilians to stay away from any election-related locations.
The Islamic State has also repeatedly threatened Muslims participating in elections around the world. On Apr. 22, a Wilayah Khorasan suicide bomber blew himself up at a voter registration center in Kabul. More than 100 people, including women and children, were casualties of that attack.
The Islamic State identified victims of the Apr. 22 bombing in Kabul as Shiite “polytheists” and, therefore, condemned them to death on sectarian grounds. The group used similar language in attempting to justify the heinous bombing in Mastung earlier today.
*Note: The casualty figures were updated after initial publication, as the death toll has steadily climbed.