INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR—PAPER NO.603
The New Year began on a disastrous note for the people of village Shah Hassankhel and surrounding areas in the Lakki Marwar District of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. These villagers, who had been co-operating with the Pakistani authorities in countering the activities of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), paid a heavy price for their co-operation when a pick-up van driven by a suicide bomber drove into a local volleyball ground when a friendly match was being played and blew up killing a large number of those who had assembled to watch the match and all the players of the two teams. Eighty people were killed on the spot and another 25 succumbed to their injuries in hospitals.
2.Surprisingly, 25 members of the area Peace Committee, who were holding a meeting in a nearby building, escaped unhurt. The dead included two policemen and six members of the para-military Frontier Constabulary (FC). The members of the Peace Committee have blamed the Government for failing to protect the people of the area despite their co-operation to the Government in its anti-Taliban operations
3. The brutal attack on the New Year’s Day came a little more than a fortnight after a denial by Al Qaeda that it had been attacking civilians in Pakistan. In a statement purported to have been issued on December 12,2009, by Adam Gadahn, who heads the As Sahab, the propaganda wing of Al Qaeda, it denied it was behind bombings in Pakistan that killed hundreds of civilians during 2009. It described such attacks as un-Islamic. The statement also alleged that Al Qaeda was being framed by the US and Pakistani intelligence services in order to discredit it. The statement further alleged: “The mercenaries of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Research and Analysis Wing, Central Intelligence Agency or Blackwater are the real culprits behind these senseless and un-Islamic bombings.”
4.A statement purported to have been issued on December 14,2009, by Azam Tariq, who was described as a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also denied the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban in the attacks on the civilians and described the attacks on the civilians as an attempt by the state’s secret agencies to defame the jihadi organisations. He was also reported to have telephoned “The News”, the English daily, to make a similar denial. At the same time, he reportedly warned religious scholars of the country to be careful while issuing Fatwas against “Mujahideen” and their suicide bombings in Pakistan. He said religious scholars before issuing such Fatwas against the “Mujahideen” and suicide bombings should have visited the affected areas like Swat, Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai, Kurram, South and North Waziristan and seen for themselves the destruction caused by the excessive bombings by Pakistani fighter planes. He alleged that even mosques and madrassas were flattened in the military operations in these areas.
5.There were 15 attacks caused often by suicide car bombers during 2009 indiscriminately killing civilians, including women and children. These attacks have particularly been deadly since September 18, 2009. Between January 1 and September 17, there were eight indiscriminate attacks on civilians killing 82 persons. Between September 18 and December 31,2009, there were seven attacks killing 328 persons, many of them women and children shopping in the markets.
6.These indiscriminate attacks on civilians, which were apparently in retaliation for the military operations against the TTP in the Swat Valley of the NWFP and in South Waziristan, caused some revulsion amongst the Pashtuns on whom Al Qaeda and the TTP are dependent for their safehaven and logistic support. Concerned by this, the two statements blaming the intelligence agencies of the US, Pakistan and India for the indiscriminate killing of civilians were disseminated.
7.Surprisingly, despite these denials, there has been another indiscriminate massacre of civilians . The indications are that the TTP carried out the massacre on New Year’s Day in retaliation for the co-operation of the villagers with the security forces in their anti-Taliban operations.
8.While Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban lose no opportunity to exploit the deaths of civilians in the drone strikes by the US and in the air strikes by the Pakistani military to whip up public anger against the US and Pakistan, neither the US nor Pakistan has been adequately keeping the spotlight on the indiscriminate and wanton killings of civilians by Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to discredit them. While the civilians killed by the drone strikes were collateral fatalities, the civilians are being deliberately targeted by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
9.After taking over as President’s special envoy for the Af-Pak region earlier last year, Richard Holbrooke had referred to the poor state of the USA’s psywar machinery and its inability to use its soft power against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This deficiency continues. (4-1-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariart, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )
INDISCRIMINATE TARGETING OF CIVILIANS BY THE PAK TALIBAN DURING 2009
February 17 At least three people were killed by a car bomb which exploded outside the home of a government official in the suburb of Bazidkhel near Peshawar. He survived but several passersby were killed or injured.
March 16 At least 14 people were killed and 17 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a busy bus stand of Rawalpindi at Pirwadhai.
March 26 At least 10 people were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide attack at a restaurant near Jandela in South Waziristan.
April 6 Police found the bullet-riddled bodies of four local aid workers, including three women, in the Shinkiari area of the Manshera District in the NWFP.
May 16 Two successive bomb blasts rocked Peshawar leaving 13 people dead and 34 others injured. A powerful car-bomb killed 12 people and wounded 31 others, including schoolchildren and women, in the Barisco area, while a low intensity device ripped through a garments store in the packed Gora Bazaar in Peshawar Saddar, killing a minor girl and injuring three others
May 22 At least 10 people were killed and 75 injured when a powerful car bomb went off outside a cinema hall in Peshawar.
June 14 Nine people were killed and over 40 injured when a powerful explosion ripped through a busy market in Dera Ismail Khan.
August 17 Seven people were killed and eight others injured when a bomb placed in a vehicle exploded at a gas filling station in the Shabqadar area of Charsadda in the NWFP.
September 18 At least 40 people were killed and 80 others injured when a bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle in a market on the Kohat-Hangu road In the NWFP.
October 9 A suicide attack at the Khyber Bazaar in Peshawar killed 52 people and injured 148. The blast occurred when a car packed with explosives rammed into a public transport bus.
October 28 At least 118 people were killed and over 200 injured by a car bomb in a market in Peshawar. The market mostly sold women’s garments. Many of those killed were women and children.
November 10 At least 34 people were killed and nearly 100 others injured by a car bomb in a Charsadda bazaar Many of those killed were women and children
December 7 Two powerful bomb blasts in the Moon Market of Lahore killed 54 people.
December 15 A car bomb in a market of Dera Ghazi Khan killed 27 people.
December 22 A suicide bomber blew himself up in Peshawar, outside a club for journalists, killing at least 3 people and injuring 10 others.