NEW DELHI: After causing mayhem in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan, the Pakistan Taliban struck Islamabad, with a suicide bombing on Friday killing a policeman and injuring six others including two bystanders.
Shortly after the car bombing, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistan Taliban, issued a detailed statement claiming responsibility for the suicide attack. The statement claimed that the bombing was carried out by Maulana Khabib to avenge Omar Khalid Khorasani's killing. The group threatened more attacks in the future.
Pakistani media reports quoted Islamabad Operations Deputy Inspector-General of Police Sohail Zaffar Chattha as saying that law enforcers stopped a suspicious vehicle and said a man and woman were inside the car.
"When the police stopped the vehicle, the couple came out of the car. The long-haired man, while being checked by the officers, went inside the vehicle on some pretext and then detonated himself."
Over the last week, the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) or Pakistan Taliban has launched a blitz of hybrid attacks, combining suicide bombings and hostage-taking, without giving up classic guerrilla warfare tactics.
Prior to Friday's attack in the Pakistani capital, signalling that the TTP had permeated the innermost core of the country, the hostage-taking in Bannu, which ended the late evening on Tuesday, was the boldest move by the group in recent weeks. On December 18, the TTP seized control of the Counter-Terrorism Department's (CTD) compound inside the cantonment area taking several security personnel hostages.
After negotiations failed, the Army's Special Service Group (SSG) stormed the facility, killing 25 hostage takers, who had been instructed by the TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud not to surrender.
But the operation took a heavy toll on Pakistan's elite commandos.
In an earlier statement on Tuesday, Pakistan's defence minister Khawaja Asif told the National Assembly that 10-15 soldiers had been injured and two were killed after the SSG launched its operation.
The Bannu district in KP province has become a hotbed of TTP attacks, primarily because it shares borders with two other important districts- North Waziristan and South Waziristan. Both North Waziristan and South Waziristan share a border with Afghanistan, where the TTP has established sanctuaries, under the overt or covert patronage of the Afghan Taliban.
There has been no let-up in militant strikes in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. On Friday, the Deputy Speaker of the provincial assembly came under a firing attack while addressing a public gathering in Shagai, Peshawar. Mehmud Jan is reportedly safe following the attack.
Expectedly, the Pakistani government has tried to give a positive spin on the Islamabad bombing. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, said that two terrorists had plans to attack a 'high-value target', The News International reported.
He pointed out, without substantiation, that the attackers had come in a car because they planned to enter important buildings such as the Parliament House, Supreme Court, Prime Minister House, PTV, and high courts. He added had the car not been stopped then there would have been many casualties.
"This would have been a shame for our country if the attack had taken place at a high-value building or Red Zone area," the interior minister told Geo News.
But opposition leader Asad Umar said that the presence of the suicide bomber shows how fast the country is 'heading towards destruction'.
"Terrorism was already spreading rapidly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Economy destroyed. Law and order destroyed. Where are they leading the country in their greed for power?" Umar asked.
Emboldened after the spate of attacks, the TTP has claimed that a group of fighters from Makran, Balochistan have joined the group. The TTP had apparently stepped up its recruitment drive in Balochistan with publications in provincial languages. It has also been empathising with the Baloch cause.
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