INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO. 561
On April 1,2009, a pilotless plane (Drone) of the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attacked with a missile the house of Hakimullah Mehsud in the Khadezai area of the Orakzai Agency in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Twelve persons were killed. Hakimullah himself, who was apparently one of the targets, escaped unhurt and warned of a retaliatory strike by the Pakistani Taliban in Islamabad.
2. The retaliation through a suicide bomber came within three days. Late on the evening of April 4,2009, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the barracks of a company of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which was deployed in Islamabad on VIP security duties. At least eight members of the FC were killed by the explosion.The FC consists almost entirely of Pashtuns recruited in the NWFP, the FATA and the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan. The FC has been in the forefront of the operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Pashtun belt.
3.On October 4,2009, Hakimullah Mehsud, who has taken over as the Amir of the TTP after the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a Drone strike on August 5,2009, invited five Pashtun journalists to a hide-out in South Waziristan to dispel rumours spread by the Pakistani authorities after the death of Baitullah that at a shoora of the TTP held to choose the successor to Baitullah, fighting broke out between his followers and those of Waliur Rehman and that Hakimullah was killed in the exchange of fire. These rumours persisted even after two persons claiming to be Hakimullah and Waliur Rehman had rung up some journalists to repudiate these rumours and announce jointly that the TTP had elected Hakimullah as its Amir and Waliur as its Amir for the South Waziristan area. These rumours revived again recently through reports circulating in Pakistan as well as orininating from the US.
4 Talking to these journalists, Hakimullah reportedly pledged to take revenge against the US for the Drone attacks and reiterated the previous TTP claim that the Pakistani Government was cooperating with the US for carrying out the missile strikes by Predators. However, he added that the TTP wasn’t against Pakistan or its people as its fight was with the pro-US rulers of the country.
5.On October 5,2009, at least five UN officials, a foreigner and two women among them, were killed and eight others injured when a suicide bomber dressed as a Frontier Constabulary soldier managed to enter the Islamabad office of the World Food Programme without being checked by security guards from a private company as well as an FC unit deployed in Islamabad to provide security to VIPs and important establishments and blew himself up. The FC personnel guarding the building reportedly came from the same unit which was attacked by a suicide bomber of the TTP on April 4,2009.
6. The "Dawn" of Karachi reported as follows on October 6,2009: "Senior investigation officers said they had not ruled out the possibility that the bomber was an FC man.The investigators detained an FC man on duty and a private security guard posted at the office’s gate. An official said it was premature to say anything about the bomber’s identity, but the possibility that he was a serving or ex-member of the paramilitary force could not be ruled out. Another top security official said if it was established that the attacker belonged to the FC, it might change the entire dynamics of not just the investigation, but the counter-terror operation."
7. If it is established that the suicide bomber was in fact a serving member of the FC, it would be an indicatior of the success of the TTP in penetrating FC units deployed outside the Pashtun tribal belt. In the past, there had been many instances of the TTP penetrating FC units deployed in the tribal belt and winning over its personnel. There had also been instances of FC personnel deployed in the tribal areas deserting from their units and joining the TTP.
8. If the TTP has succeeded in penetrating FC units deployed in Islamabad and other places, it should set an alarm bell ringing because the Pakistan Army uses FC units for physical security duties at nuclear establishments. This could provide an opportunity for the TTP and Al Qaeda to penetrate these establishments with the help of their moles. ( 6-10-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )