A Taliban suicide bomber killed scores of civilians and policemen in an attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Monday. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) denied any role in the attack, however a powerful TTP faction known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed credit for the suicide bombing.
At least 59 people were killed and more than 150 wounded after the blast caved in the roof of the mosque, which is frequented by Pakistani police, according to Dawn. The death toll is expected to rise as more people are trapped under the rubble.
Omar Mukaram Khurasani, the current emir of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and a member of the TTP’s leadership council, claimed his group carried out the attack to avenge the group’s previous emir, Omar Khalid Khurasani, who was killed in Afghanistan in Aug. 2022, according to the South Asia Media Research Institute.
Omar Khalid Khurasani was closely aligned with Al Qaeda and was vocal in his support of the global terror group. In May 2011, Omar Khalid Khurasani vowed revenge on Pakistani and U.S. forces just two weeks after the successful U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Omar Khalid Khurasani called for the overthrow the Pakistani state, the seizure of its nuclear weapons, and the establishment of a global caliphate. [See LWJ report, Senior Pakistani Taliban leader reportedly killed in Afghanistan for more information on Omar Khalid Khurasani and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.]
In Aug. 2016, the U.S. State Department added Jamaat-ul-Ahrar to the list of global terrorists organizations. State also issued a reward of $3 million for information leading to the capture and prosecution of Omar Khalid Khurasani.
The TTP issued a statement on its official website, Umar Media, that denied any involvement in Monday’s suicide attack in Peshawar. The TTP said it had “nothing to do with this incident” and “according to our laws and general constitution, any kind of action in mosques, madrasas, funeral homes and other holy places is prohibited. It is a crime.”
However, the TTP has launched numerous suicide attacks and conventional bombings at mosques, madrasas and funerals since it launched its insurgency in 2006. The Afghan Taliban also issued a similar statement condemning the suicide bombing via its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Afghan Taliban, like the Pakistani Taliban, has launched numerous suicide attacks in mosques during its insurgency in Afghanistan.
“IEA [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the Taliban’s government] condemns attacks on worshipers in mosques and deems such actions in contradiction to teachings of the Holy religion of Islam,” the group claimed.
It is certainly possible that the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the TTP launched the Peshawar mosque suicide attack without the knowledge and approval of its parent organization. But given the organization of the TTP and the history of these two groups, it is more likely that the TTP was aware of the attack and is denying involvement regardless. The TTP may be relying on the fact that the relationships between the TTP central leadership and its various factions are complex and often confusing.
For instance, since 2014, when Jamaat-ul-Ahrar officially split from the TTP due to a leadership dispute, the two groups have announced reconciliation twice: once in 2015, and again in 2020. During that time, the groups often issued contradictory claims or denial of attacks inside Pakistan. This confusion and lack of accountability gives the TTP a degree of plausible deniability.
If the TTP is sincere about its claim that “any kind of action in mosques, madrasas, funeral homes and other holy places is prohibited,” then Omar Mukaram Khurasani would be tried and expelled from the TTP’s central council and, possibly, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar would be ejected from the TTP. Given the history of the TTP, it is unlikely that will even be raised as a talking point.
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