Pakistan Security Brief - December 27, 2010


Female suicide bomber attacks World Food Program­­­ building in Bajaur; Taliban militants launch simultaneous attacks on five security checkposts in Mohmand; U.S. drone campaign in the FATA has led to a sharp rise in killings of alleged spies; U.S. operations have stunted Haqqani network operations; Iran releasing al Qaeda operatives to fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan; TTP kidnaps South Waziristan tribesmen.

FATA

  • At least 41 people were killed and more than 60 others wounded in a suicide attack at a World Food Programme distribution center in Bajaur Agency on Saturday. Pakistani officials later confirmed that a female suicide bomber wearing a burqa blew herself up outside the building in Bajaur’s main town of Khar where dozens of local residents were waiting in line to receive food rations. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq claimed his group’s responsibility for the attack, saying the bombing targeted the pro-government Salarzai tribe that runs a local anti-Taliban militia. Investigators have also stated that they believe the female bomber was from Swat district. The World Food Programme has indefinitely suspended its activities at its four U.N.-run food relief centers in Bajaur Agency, raising concerns among the thousands of impoverished residents throughout the region who depend on the centers for food aid.[1]

  • Missile strikes by U.S. drone aircraft have killed 18 people in North Waziristan. The first strike took place in the village of Mir Ali and targeted a vehicle carrying foreign militants. Later, 14 militants from the TTP were killed by missiles fired by drone aircraft as their vehicles attempted to reach the scene of the earlier strikes. There is no word yet on the nationalities of the foreign militants.

  • Approximately 150 Taliban fighters launched simultaneous attacks on five security checkpoints in the Bazai sub-district of Mohmand Agency on Friday, killing 11 soldiers and wounding 12 others. Security forces reported at least 40 militants killed in the clashes. The militant death toll rose to as many as 40 militants killed when helicopter gunships and artillery shelled Taliban hideouts in Baizai and Lakro villages.[2]

  • According to a Washington Post report, the escalation of the U.S. drone campaign in North Waziristan has led to an environment of fear and paranoia in which extremist groups have been responsible for a significant increase in the slayings of local tribesmen suspected of being spies. Citing statements made by local residents, the report says that the recent rise in drone strikes has “perpetuated an entrenched culture of clan rivalry and retribution” and that “militants are purging suspected moles” with little or no evidence of their alleged spy activities. The top military commander in the FATA, Lieutenant General Asif Yasin Malik, said that militant groups are “spreading terror by killing anyone.” This has also led to a significant degree of mistrust among North Waziristan’s non-militant population, some of whom have been utilizing militants’ fears of U.S. spies to launch false accusations against other tribesmen in order to exact revenge over “land disputes or personal enmities.”[3]

  • The TTP have reportedly kidnapped 23 tribesmen in South Waziristan and are reportedly now “deciding how to punish the men and boys being held.” The TTP sees the tribesmen as guilty of cooperating with the Pakistan army in its repatriation efforts for internally displaced people (IDPs) in South Waziristan. “This is a warning to the tribal people to not come to the area because we are still present in South Waziristan,” said TTP spokesman Azam Tariq via phone to reporters. He further claimed that TTP had “seven Taliban courts functioning in South Waziristan, as well as 22 offices.” The kidnapping will be a blow to nascent Pakistani attempts to repatriate the some 400,000 people who fled a military operation in South Waziristan in October 2009.

  • According to a Pakistani press report, two NATO helicopters violated Pakistani airspace over Khyber agency on Monday morning. The helicopters reportedly entered from the Torkham area into Landi Kotal sub-district of Khyber agency.

  • On Friday, 46 militants, including four commanders, voluntarily surrendered to security forces in Bajaur Agency. The militants, who hailed from various locations throughout Bajaur, laid down their arms before a council of tribal elders in Khar sub-district.[4]

Haqqani Network

  • A new report by the New York Times says a classified section of the Obama Administration’s year-end review trumpets the gains U.S. forces, particularly Special Operations Forces (SOF), have made against the Haqqani network. According to the report, and to unnamed NATO officials, repeated SOF raids against Haqqani leadership, logisticians and bomb makers, and drone strikes against Haqqani hideouts in Pakistan, have unsettled the network and reduced its capacity to carry out complex operations inside Afghanistan.

Iran and al Qaeda

  • According to a report in the London Times, Iran has been secretly releasing al Qaeda operatives in its custody to fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A senior Pakistani intelligence official, quoted by the Times, said that “In many cases they are being facilitated by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.” According to the report, among those released are “Saif al-Adel, a high-ranking Egyptian al Qaeda member on the FBI’s most wanted list for alleged involvement in the deadly 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa….They also include Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti accused of being Al-Qaeda’s official spokesman at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and Abu Khayr al-Masri, a key aide to al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.” Saif al-Adel is reportedly al Qaeda’s chief of operations for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

  • Security forces foiled an attempted terror attack in Hangu district on Saturday. Acting on a tip, police recovered a vehicle packed with explosives after stopping the vehicle in the Doaba area. The occupants of the vehicle fired on police while attempting to flee the scene but were wounded in the exchange of fire and subsequently arrested. Bomb disposal teams later arrived on the scene and successfully defused the explosives.[5]

  • Three people, including two students and one teacher, were wounded in an explosion at a school in Peshawar on Friday. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast.[6]

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • Speaking to media sources on Sunday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilanisaid that U.S. drone attacks aimed at militant safe havens in the FATA have been counterproductive towards solving the region’s problems of militant extremism. While condemning the attacks, Mr. Gilani also said that that the U.S. should hand over its drone technology to Pakistan.[7]

  • Ambassador Husain Haqqani told reporters on Thursday that the U.S. should not “blame Pakistan” for its failures in Afghanistan. Mr. Haqqani said that the U.S. and its NATO allies should instead “concentrate and focus on how to end increasing radicalization” in the region and “focus on united efforts to defeat the terrorists.” Mr. Haqqani also stated that Pakistan was doing its best to combat militant extremism within its borders and pointed out the many sacrifices the Pakistan Army has made in pursuit of these goals.[8]

  • The U.S. transferred more than $600 million to Pakistan this week, the latest tranche of money to “reimburse” Pakistan for its actions in fighting violent extremist groups. $8.76 billion have been paid to Pakistan under this scheme since 2001.

  • The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, has said there will likely be more coordinated operations between U.S. and Pakistani forces on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and has commended Pakistani counterinsurgency operations as “impressive.” In an interview on board a military transport, Gen. Petraeus was quoted as saying “we want to do more hammer and anvil operations." He also said Pakistan was aware of "the need to do more to solidify their gains in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and we are going to coordinate with them to help their operations."

Balochistan

  • The driver of a NATO supply truck bound for Afghanistan was killed when unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles opened fire on his vehicle in Balochistan on Sunday. A government official confirmed that the incident occurred in the Khad Kocha area of Mastung district and said that the gunmen fled the scene following the attack.[9]

  • One policeman was killed when a bicycle bomb exploded in Balochistan on Friday. The blast occurred as a police vehicle was driving through a suburb of Quetta. The other three occupants of the vehicle and a pedestrian were also wounded in the blast.[10]


[1] “41 dead in Pakistan suicide bombing: officials,” AFP, December 25, 2010. Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101225/wl_sthasia_afp/pakistanunrestnorthwest. “‘Female bomber struck Pakistan UN food project’,” AFP, December 26, 2010. Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101226/wl_asia_afp/pakistanunrestattackwoman. Anwarullah Khan, “THousands fear hunger after Pakistan bombing,” AP, December 26, 2010. Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101227/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan.
[2] Shams Mohmand, “Pakistan clashes kill 11 troops, 24 militants,” Reuters, December 24, 2010. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6BN0OQ20101224?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FworldNews+%28News+%2F+US+%2F+International%29. “At least 40 militants killed in Pakistan raids,” AFP, December 25, 2010. Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101225/wl_sthasia_afp/pakistanunrestnorthwestmohmand. “Taliban launch attacks along north Pakistan border,” BBC, December 24, 2010. Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101225/wl_sthasia_afp/pakistanunrestnorthwestmohmand.
[3] Karin Brulliard, “As drone strikes have increased, so have assassinations, “Pakistanis say,” Washington Post, December 24, 2010. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/23/AR2010122305585.html?wprss=rss_world/asia.
[4] “46 miscreants surrender,” Frontier Post, December 25, 2010. Available at http://www.thefrontierpost.com/News.aspx?ncat=ts&nid=1476&ad=25-12-2010.
[5] “Terrorism bid foiled in Hangu,” Frontier Post, December 26, 2010. Available at http://www.thefrontierpost.com/News.aspx?ncat=ts&nid=1503&ad=26-12-2010. “Terror plan foiled in Hangu,” Geo, December 25, 2010. Available at http://www.geo.tv/12-25-2010/76327.htm.
[6] “Three wounded in Peshawar school explosion,” Dawn, December 24, 2010. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/24/three-wounded-in-peshawar-school-explosion.html.
[7] “US drone attacks counter-productive: Gilani,” Dawn, December 26, 2010. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/26/us-drone-attacks-counter-productive-gilani.html.
[8] “US urged not to make Pakistan a scapegoat,” Dawn, December 24, 2010. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/24/us-urged-not-to-make-pakistan-a-scapegoat.html.
[10] “Bicycle bomb kills policeman in Quetta,” AFP, December 24, 2010. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/24/explosion-heard-on-qambrani-road-in-quetta.html.