The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for the deadly suicide attack at a rally held by the secular Awami National Party in Peshawar late last night. The deadly bombing is the first major attack executed by the Taliban group since Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud assumed command of the group in late June.
The July 10 suicide attack targeted the ANP rally and killed 20 people, including Haroon Bilour, a candidate for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial assembly, according to GEO News. At least 62 people were reportedly wounded in the attack.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (aka Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP) identified the suicide bomber as “mujahid Abdul Kareem.” Bilour and the ANP was targeted because “this secular party martyred and enslaved many of muslims in its rule,” according to a statement attributed to TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani.
Khurasani said that the ANP will remain in the TTP’s crosshairs “until they repent and return to folds [sic] of Islam,” and warned Pakistanis to “stay away from its offices and office bearers because we have openly announced to fight with them.”
The TTP has targeted the ANP’s leadership in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past. Bilour’ went the way of his father, Bashir Ahmed Bilour – the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development – who was also killed in a suicide bombing at a political rally in Peshawar in Dec. 2012.
Yesterday’s suicide bombing in Peshawar took place just one day after the TTP promoted a video that highlighted its “Martyrdom seeker force.” The TTP video presented clips from training sessions of “martyrdom seeker mujahideen” and also included speeches from Qari Hussain Mehsud, the former head trainer of the TTP’s suicide squads and Khalid Mehsud, the former commander of the TTP’s forces in South Waziristan. Qari Hussain was killed in an US drone strike inside Pakistan years ago (the exact date and location of his death has not been disclosed); Khalid was killed earlier this year.
The Peshawar suicide attack marks the TTP’s first major operation since the group appointed Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud to lead in late June. Wali replaced Mullah Fazlullah, who was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan last month.
The TTP withered under the leadership of Fazlullah, who sheltered in Afghanistan’s remote mountainous province of Kunar. Several factions broke away but later rejoined the TTP. The TTP was unable to sustain a major terror offensive inside Pakistan during Fazlullah’s reign. Wali likely is attempting to reverse that trend and revitalize the jihad in Pakistan’s northwest.
Note: this article was corrected to note that Khalid Mehsud was killed this year, and the exact date of Qari Hussain’s death is not known.