Pakistan Security Brief – August 19, 2011
Khyber mosque bombing kills 53; Army concludes Kurram operation; Drone strike kills 4 in South Waziristan; Militant group resurging in Punjab; Police release sketch of American’s kidnapper; Pakistan, America, resolve diplomatic dispute; 30 killed in new Karachi violence; Karachi militant groups clash; 12 killed in Balochistan.
Massive Mosque Bombing
A teenage suicide bomber killed at least 53 people and wounded 123 more when he set of his explosive vest in a mosque in Jamrud sub-district of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ (FATA) Khyber agency during afternoon prayers on Friday. The blast caused the roof of the mosque to cave in, trapping dozens of people under the wreckage. According to locals, tribesmen had evicted militants trying to infiltrate the area days ago. The suicide bomber, believed to be 15- or 16-years-old, is reported to have said “who will throw me out of the area now?” before detonating his vest.
The army issued a statement on Thursday declaring that it had concluded an operation in Kurram agency launched in early July to clear out militants from the central part of the agency. The statement said that a visit from Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani to troops in the area officially marked the end of the operation and that the primary objective, the opening of the Thall-Parachinar road, had been accomplished. An article in Dawn raises the point, however, that while militants in central Kurram were targeted, no operation was conducted in lower Kurram where militants are also present. The article speculates that this may be due to the fact that militants in lower Kurram defected from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main group targeted, says before the operation began.
A U.S. drone strike reportedly killed four suspected militants on Friday. The strike took place in Shin Warsak village in South Waziristan agency, and hit the house of a local tribal elder. According to security officials, two people were also wounded in the strike. There is currently no information on whether any high value targets were killed in the strike.
A report in the Express Tribune examines the resurgence of the deadly Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). The group was officially banned in 2001 but, according to the report, appears now to have resumed “full-scale public activity” including recruitment and fundraising while security agencies look the other way. According to JeM activists and intelligence officials interviewed by the Tribune, JeM is “working on a plan to reach out to its activists who had abandoned the organisation after it came on the radar following an attack on the Indian parliament blamed on the group.” JeM is the second-largest militant group in the Punjab after Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Pakistani police on Thursday released a sketch of one of the men they suspect of involvement in the kidnapping of an elderly American development expert, Warren Weinstein, from his home in Lahore. Police have so far not been able to gain further insight into the motive of Weinstein’s kidnappers and are currently treating the incident as “a simple kidnapping case.” In a telephone call to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly asked Pakistan to “ensure safe and early recovery of abducted US development specialist Warren Weinstein.” The phone call followed a flurry of meetings between officials on both sides, reportedly sparked by alarm over a statement from Pakistani Law Minister Rana Sanaullah that insinuated Weinstein was involved in suspicious activities such as espionage.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson on Thursday said that Pakistani and American officials had resolved a recent dispute over travel restrictions placed on American diplomats in Pakistan. For the past week the U.S. has been working to persuade Pakistan to “ease travel restrictions on its diplomats and review a decision of expelling American military trainers.” Diplomats will no longer need to carry special papers issued by the Pakistani government but they will need to have their identity cards on them at all times.
On the second day of renewed fighting in Karachi over 30 people were killed in what police are describing as violence “blended with an ‘ethnic color.’” The toll over the two days currently stands at 50. According to the police, most of the victims were “common wage earners” who were kidnapped earlier in the week. A number of the bodies show signs of being tortured. The Lyari neighborhood of Karachi has been particularly affected by the killings. Police in Karachi launched a crackdown in violence affected parts of the city, arresting over 100 people on Friday. The ruling Paksitan Peoples Party (PPP) called a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the spiraling violence and to put final touches on a deal that would see the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) rejoin the ruling coalition. The PPP and MQM have exchanged barbs over the violence, with each accusing the other of being responsible for the wave of killings.
In separate incidents in Karachi, members of the Barelvi sect-dominated Sunni Tehreek militant group and the banned Deobandi militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) clashed with each other resulting in the deaths of two people on Thursday. Four more were injured in the fighting.
Separate shooting incidents across Balochistan killed 12 people on Friday, including the son or a former provincial minister. Several decomposing bodies were also discovered earlier this week. Targeted killings are frequent occurrences in Balochistan which suffers from an ongoing separatist insurgency.
“US demands safe recovery of kidnapped American,” Dawn, August 19, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/19/us-demands-safe-recovery-of-kidnapped-american.html
“Karachi police launches operation against criminals; 100 arrested,” Dawn, August 19, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/19/karachi-police-launches-operation-against-criminals-100-arrested.html
Syed Irfan Raza, “Presidency convenes meeting on Karachi today,” Dawn, August 19, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/19/presidency-convenes-meeting-on-karachi-today.html “Gang war being expanded throughout Karachi,” Dawn, August 18, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/18/gang-war-being-expanded-throughout-karachi-mqm.html