Pakistani Taliban claims suicide bombing in Quetta

Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (the TTP, or Pakistani Taliban) has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a luxury hotel in Quetta, Pakistan. The group has identified the terrorist responsible as Muhammad Abbas (a.k.a. “Farooq”), saying he “targeted police officers and other higher-ups with a martyrdom-seeking attack” on the “five-star Serena hotel.”

At least several people were killed and a dozen or more wounded in the blast yesterday (Apr. 21). According to the Pakistani interior ministry, a Chinese diplomatic delegation, including China’s ambassador, was staying at the same hotel, but was not at the location at the time of the bombing. There is no indication that the Chinese delegation was intentionally targeted.

Instead, the TTP claims that two Pakistani “assistant commissioners” perished, while “scores of other security officers were either killed or injured” and many vehicles “were burnt and destroyed in the attack.”

The TTP has executed a string of mostly small-scale attacks, including assassinations, against Pakistani military and security personnel this year. The group claims the latest bombing is evidence of its “strong military leadership” and the “might” of its “intelligence” arm.

The jihadists’ claim of responsibility was posted by the TTP’s official propaganda outlet, Umar Media, on social media and its website. The message is attributed to the TTP’s spokesperson, a man identified as “Muhammad Khurasani .” The author of the statement criticizes unnamed Pakistani journalists and officials for supposedly covering up the success of the operation, saying these people “childishly” hid “information on the type of attack and its target.”

Like other jihadist organizations, the TTP has suffered a string of setbacks over the years.  However, the group has been reconstituted under the leadership of its current emir Noor Wali Mehsud.

Noor Wali was named the emir of the TTP in June 2018, shortly after his predecessor, Mullah Fazlullah, was killed in Afghanistan. Fazlullah’s tenure was rocky, as the TTP suffered defections to the Islamic State’s upstart Khorasan branch, as well as other disruptions in its chain of command. Noor Wali has sought to reunify the TTP’s ranks, formally welcoming breakaway factions back into the fold and publicly accepting oaths of allegiance.

The TTP has been closely allied with al-Qaeda since its formation in late 2007, a relationship that is highlighted in the group’s media. Some personnel are dual-hatted, meaning they serve in both the TTP’s and al-Qaeda’s ranks.

The TTP maintains a significant presence in Afghanistan, where it is waging jihad to restore the Afghan Taliban’s Islamic Emirate. As part of a Feb. 29, 2020, withdrawal deal with the U.S., the Afghan Taliban is supposed to prevent terrorist organizations that threaten the U.S. from operating inside Afghanistan. However, there is no evidence of a break between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP. The TTP’s international aspirations have long been known. In addition to conducting regular attacks inside Pakistan, the group is responsible for the failed May 2010 Times Square bombing.

According to a United Nations monitoring team, thousands of Pakistani jihadists, many of whom are affiliated with the TTP, continue to wage jihad in Afghanistan.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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