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Thursday, February 23

Pakistan under attack. Are TTP and Islamic State in cahoots there?

Another bombing in Pakistan on the 21st, at a courthouse, and one today at an upscale shopping mall. I want to go back over two of the recent bombings but first -- 

Eleven bloody days in Pakistan: a timeline
AFP via The News International
February 23 2017

ISLAMABAD: At least eight people were killed in a bomb blast in Lahore Thursday, the tenth attack to strike Pakistan in just under a fortnight, with the apparently coordinated wave pointing to resurgence in militant violence.


Here is a recap of the incidents which have killed 138 people over the past 11 days:

February 23

- At least eight people are killed and 30 injured after a blast rips through a building in an upscale shopping area of the eastern city of Lahore. No group has immediately claimed the attack.

February 21

- At least seven people are killed when multiple suicide bombers attack a court complex in northern Pakistan. The attack is claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or the Pakistani Taliban.

February 16

- At least 90 devotees are killed and hundreds wounded when a devastating bomb detonates in the popular Sufi shrine of Lal Shabaz Qalandar in Sehwan in southern Pakistan. The Islamic State group claims the attack.

- Gunmen on motorcycles kill four policemen and a civilian in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan. The attack was claimed by the umbrella TTP.

- An improvised explosive device claimed by JuA hits an army convoy in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan, killing three soldiers and wounding two others.

February 15

- A suicide bomber rides a motorcycle into a van carrying judges in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing the van´s driver in an attack claimed by the umbrella TTP.

- Two suicide bombers launch an assault on a government compound in the Mohmand tribal region in the northwest, killing five people and wounding seven, with the attack claimed by JuA. Later, a fourth suicide bomber blows himself up as police surround him.

February 13

- Fourteen people are killed and 82 injured when a powerful bomb blast tears through Lahore. The attack, apparently targeting police, is claimed by JuA.

- Two members of the bomb disposal squad are killed while defusing a device in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. No group claims responsibility for the bomb.

February 12

- A roadside bomb kills three paramilitary soldiers in a restive northwestern tribal area bordering Afghanistan.


[END REPORT]

"There is a well established substructure that now exists within the country that is populated by a range of groups under a generic TTP banner."

I didn't understand the statement from JA/TTP (below) that both the Charsadda and Sufi shrine attacks were part of "their" Ghazi operation. I thought the shrine attack was the work of Islamic State. Was JA/TTP saying they were working with Islamic State? From the last paragraph in the following editorial by the Express Tribune staff, it looks as if the answer is yes.   

The Charsadda Attack
The Express Tribune (Pakistan)
February 22, 2017

Attacks on a single target by multiple suicide bombers are relatively rare. Three attackers made a frontal assault on the Charsadda sessions courts through the main gates, firing as they came and throwing hand grenades in a determined attempt to storm the crowded building. The police and security forces fought back killing two of the attackers, the third died when his vest detonated. At least six people were killed in the attack and approximately 20 injured. These figures may be subject to revision. There can be no doubt that the first-tier response of those guarding the building saved many lives.

The attack was swiftly claimed by the Jamaatul Ahrar (JA) which is a branch of the TTP franchise, and demonstrates the breadth of operational spread that the JA has — from Sehwan in Sindh to Charsadda in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, a 40-minute drive from the provincial capital of Peshawar. The JA said in a call to the media that the attack was a part of their Ghazi operation, as was the attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine, and the JA is emerging as the most active current player in the terrorist constellation.

Laudable as the valiant efforts were of those on duty at the gates of the court, questions have to be asked yet again as to whether or not the attack constitutes an intelligence failure. 


The logistics behind the attack would have been complex in terms of weapons, explosives and other munitions — but not so complex as to be beyond the capacity of resourceful terrorists, who would have needed a place to eat and sleep prior to carrying out the attack. 

There is a well established substructure that now exists within the country that is populated by a range of groups under a generic TTP banner. Included within that population is Islamic State (IS), a reality long denied at a senior level of government. There is a gaping hole where there ought to be a plan, and it is not possible to arrest and detain a way out of the terror maze. Dial back the delusion before it is too late.


[END]

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