Taliban: the unholy nexus of sectarian and jihadi terrorists

Raid reveals Taliban’s Punjab links

More than a hundred Pakistani civilians have died in four attacks carried out in less than a week [AFP]

Officials say the latest deadly attacks reveal the extent to which the Pakistani Taliban is supported by ethnic Punjabi groups, in addition to the Pashto-speaking tribesmen of the northwestern border areas.

Four attacks in less than a week have claimed over 120 lives and include a 22-hour raid on the army’s general headquarters just 16km from the capital, Islamabad.

The attacks show it is not only Pashtuns who are opposed to Islamabad’s government as well as the Pakistani army and police force, according to representatives of Taliban.

Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility on Monday for that attack, saying “it was carried out by our Punjab unit”.

“And we will continue to take revenge for our martyrs and will carry out more attacks, whether it’s the GHQ [the army’s general headquarters] or something bigger,” he said.

And Major-General Athar Abbas confirmed that Muhammad Aqeel, also known as Dr Usman and a former member of the army medical corps, had led the attack on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Aqeel is an ethnic Punjabi.

Previous attacks

Aqeel is believed to have orchestrated an ambush on Sri Lanka’s visiting cricket team in Lahore, a failed attempt to shoot down then-president Pervez Musharraf’s jet with an anti-aircraft gun, and a suicide attack that killed the army surgeon-general in February 2008, according to Zulfikar Hameed, a police investigator.

Hameed says that Aqeel was recruited into Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Janghvi, armed groups based in the Punjab province.


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Jaish and Lashkar have long been blamed for attacks on Western targets in Pakistan, as well as on minority Shia populations.

Both groups are believed to have had links with Pakistan security agencies, which used their members to fight proxy wars in Afghanistan and India before 2001.

The Punjab connection is significant because ethnic Punjabis dominate the army and the major institutions of the Pakistani state, Shuja Nawaz, head of the South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council in Washington, has been quoted as saying.

“Their involvement means that their break with the military and the [intelligence services] is now complete. The question is: Will the military have the capacity to take operations against them?” he told the Washington Postnewspaper.

Monday’s suicide bombing took place in Shangla, a Pashto-speaking area of the Swat valley region. The attacker was apparently targeting a military vehicle, but most of the victims were ordinary Pakistanis.

Deadliest assault

TV footage of the bombing showed vegetable stands with their wares spilled on the street, two-storey buildings with their fronts torn away and several wrecked cars.

The attack killed 45 people, including six security officers, and wounded dozens of others, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister, said.

Deadly week

October 12 – Suicide bomber targets security convoy in Shangla, near Swat valley, killing 45, including 35 civilians and six soldiers.
October 10 – Fighters attack army GHQ in Rawalpindi. Commandos storm building and rescue 39 hostages. Nine suspected Taliban fighters, 11 soldiers and three hostages killed.
October 9 – Suspected suicide car bomber kills 53 in Peshawar. About 100 people are wounded.
October 5 – Suicide bomber dressed as paramilitary soldier attacks UN office in Islamabad, killing five staff members.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but it was the deadliest attack in the region since the army claimed to have cleared the valley of Taliban in an offensive earlier this year.

While many anti-government fighters were killed or captured in the army offensive, others are believed to have gone to rural areas or neighbouring districts.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks in the past week as the military has been preparing to launch another major offensive on the border region of South Waziristan.

On October 5, a bomber blew himself up inside a heavily guarded UN aid agency in the capital, Islamabad, killing five staffers.

On Friday, an attacker detonated an explosives-laden car in the middle of a busy market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 53 people.

The raid on army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi began on Saturday when 10 heavily armed fighters shot their way past the front gate.

They then seized more than 40 hostages and held them overnight in a building inside the vast compound. Commandos stormed the building on Sunday. The army said nine Taliban members and 14 other people were killed, mostly members of the security forces.

Terrorists wanted to take senior officers hostage: ISPR

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ISLAMABAD Pakistan: Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Ather Abbas said, Terrorists wanted to take key officials hostage, The main target of terrorists was to take the senior military leaders hostage to get their detained accomplices released, said Major General Athar Abbas, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), here on Monday.Terrorists wanted to take senior officers hostage ISPR

“They sent their demands for the release of all their accomplices after making people hostage at GHQ,” Abbas said while briefing the media about the details of the operation against terrorists after they attacked the GHQ at 11.30 am on Saturday.

The DG ISPR said the terrorists had failed in attaining their desired goals by attacking the GHQ, as the Pakistan Army responded quickly. Abbas said the conspiracy regarding the GHQ attack was hatched in the South Waziristan. “We have intercepted a conversation of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Waliur Rehman asking someone to pray for success as ‘Fidayeen’ attack on the GHQ has started,” he added.

He expressed fear that TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud could be alive. “Apparently it looks that he is alive, as many videos are pointing towards this,” Abbas said. When asked about the launch of a military operation in the South Waziristan, the military spokesman said the army had taken “principle decision” to launch operation in restive South Waziristan, as this area had become breeding ground for terrorists. But, he added, the government would finally decide the time of offensive.

“It will be decided in the best interest of the nation as more than 80 per cent suicide attacks were planned in Waziristan,” he maintained. Responding to a question about the presence of Taliban in southern Punjab, the ISPR chief said splinter groups of defunct Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were working on their own and their main training centre was South Waziristan, adding that out of 9 terrorists five were from Waziristan, while remaining four were from different parts of Punjab.

Analysis: Pakistan confronts growing terrorist menace

Pakistan’s military establishment is beginning to realise the scale of the terrorist scourge in the country.

Analysis by Saeed Shah in Islamabad
Published: 5:00AM BST 13 Oct 2009

The danger comes not only from Taliban, who are ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan’s north-west fringe, which borders Afghanistan, but also from extremists from its heartland Punjab province, who have forged a network with the Taliban.

So Pakistan is threatened by a network of extremism that has cells throughout the country, able to mount attacks seemingly at will against any target. The militants are able to mount both suicide attacks and more sophisticated commando or “fidayeen” gun and grenade assaults, using well-trained jihadists against sometimes highly protected targets.

Such attacks have intensified in frequency to leave more than 100 people dead in the space of a week, mostly from suicide bombings which have predominantly killed civilians.

The deadly nexus between Punjabi jihadists from more established groups, and their Pakistani Taliban comrades was exposed in the attack on the military headquarters (GHQ) at Rawalpindi at the weekend. Five of the 10 assailants were Punjabis. Their ringleader, Aqeel alias Dr Usman, was from a Punjabi extremist outfit, but the training for the operation was carried out in Waziristan, according to the army.

The “fidayeen”, military-style tactics could even be used against Pakistan’s nuclear sites, according to Shaun Gregory, a professor at Bradford University and an expert on Pakistan’s nuclear programme. This could result in installations being bombed, set on fire or nuclear material stolen.

“The only thing that stands between al-Qaeda and nuclear weapons is the Pakistan army,” said Prof Gregory. “It is an incredible shock that terrorists can strike at the heart of GHQ . Terrorists could mount this sort of assault against Pakistan’s nuclear installations.”

The same sort of fidayeen attack was seen in the assault on Mumbai in late 2008 by the Pakistan-based Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), and the ambush of the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore earlier this year. Aqeel was already being hunted as the mastermind of that attack.

While Pakistan has taken on the Taliban extremists and plans to strike their sprawling stronghold in Waziristan, the menace from Punjab, a developed and highly populated area, is much harder to tackle and so far there has been no concerted military action taken against militants operating there.

Many see the strike on the army headquarters as a “wake up” call about the threat from Punjab.


عقیل سری لنکا کرکٹ ٹیم پر حملے میں شامل تھا

جی ایچ کیو پر حملے میں شامل نو میں سے پانچ حملہ آور کا تعلق پنجاب اور چار کا وزیرستان کے محسود علاقے سے بتایا جاتا ہے

پاکستانی فوجی مرکز پر سنیچر کو حملے کے دوران زندہ بچ جانے والے واحد حملہ آور محمد عقیل کے پروفائل نے دہشت گردوں کا پیچھا کرنے والے پاکستان کے تحقیقاتی اداروں کو تحریک طالبان پنجاب کو سنجیدگی سے لینے پر مجبور کر دیا ہے۔

عمر تقریباً تیس سال، فوج کا سابق ملازم ، پنجاب کی تحصیل کہوٹہ کا رہائشی، پنجاب میں فرقہ وارانہ تنظیموں کا تربیت یافتہ اور القاعدہ کے ساتھ مراسم۔

چند ایک تبدیلیوں کے ساتھ یہ ایک محمد عقیل کا نہیں تقریباً ہر اس فرد کا پروفائل بن جاتا ہے جسے پاکستانی سکیورٹی ادارے گزشتہ چند برسوں کے دوران پنجاب اور اسلام آباد میں دہشت گردی کی بڑی وارداتوں میں ملوث ہونے کے بعد پہچان پائے ہیں۔

سابق صدر پرویز مشرف اور سابق وزیراعظم شوکت عزیز پر حملوں کے منصوبہ ساز ہو یا اسلام آباد، راولپنڈی، سرگودھا، فیصل آباد اور لاھور میں پاکستانی مسلح افواج اور سکیورٹی اداروں کے دفاتر اور بسوں پر بم حملوں میں ملوث بندوق بردار۔ سری لنکا کی کرکٹ ٹیم ہو یا اسلام آباد کا میریئٹ ہوٹل ان سب کارروائیوں میں جتنے بھی نوجوان ملوث پائے گئے ہیں وہ سب پنجاب کی فرقہ وارانہ تنظیموں کے تربیت یافتہ بتائے جاتے ہیں جنہوں نے بعض انٹیلی جنس ذرائع کے مطابق تحریک طالبان پنجاب کے نام کے تحت اتحاد قائم کر لیا ہے۔

فوجی حکام کے مطابق محمد عقیل عرف ڈاکٹر عثمان لاھور میں سری لنکا کی کرکٹ ٹیم پر ہونے والے حملے میں براہ راست شامل تھا جبکہ سابق صدر پرویز مشرف اور میریئٹ ہوٹل میں ہوئے بم دھماکوں کی تفتیش کے دوران بھی اس کا نام بار بار آتا رہا ہے۔

صدر مشرف پر ہونے والے بم حملوں میں شامل بیشتر ملزمان پاکستان کی مسلح افواج کے ارکان تھے اور ان میں سے اکثر کا تعلق بھی ضلع راولپنڈی کے مختلف علاقوں سے بتایا جاتا ہے۔

سنیچر کے روز راولپنڈی میں فوجی مرکز پر ہوئے حملے میں شامل دس میں سے پانچ حملہ آوروں کا تعلق پنجاب اور پانچ کا وزیرستان کے محسود علاقے سے بتایا جاتا ہے۔ حملہ آوروں کا یہ تناسب تحقیقی اداروں کی پہلے سے طے شدہ اس رائے کو تقویت دیتا ہے کہ پنجاب کی فرقہ ورانہ جماعتوں نے وزیرستان میں قائم تحریک طالبان کے ساتھ تعلقات قائم کر لیے ہیں اور اس کے تعاون سے صوبہ پنجاب میں دہشت گردی کی وارداتیں کی جا رہی ہیں۔

محمد عقیل کی عرفیت ڈاکٹر عثمان بتائی جاتی ہے اور اس کی وجہ یہ بتائی جاتی ہے کہ وہ پاکستانی فوج کی میڈیکل کور میں سول ملازم رہ چکے ہیں اور راولپنڈی میں مختلف مقامات پر سرکاری خدمات بھی انجام دیتے رہے ہیں۔ فوجی ترجمان میجر جنرل اطہر عباس کے مطابق عقیل نے انیس سو نواسی میں فوج میں شمولیت اختیار کی تھی تاہم سن دو ہزار چار میں وہ فوج چھوڑ کر بھاگ گئے’وہ بھگوڑا ہو گئے تھے۔‘

خودکش جیکٹ پہنے عقیل اپنے مقصد میں اتنے سنجیدہ تھے کہ جی ایچ کیو پر حملے کے دوران وہ ایک الگ کمرے میں چلے گئے اور دروازوں میں بارودی سرنگیں نصب کر کے پانچ کمانڈوں فوجیوں کو ہلاک کیا۔ وہ شدید زخمی اور بہوش حالت میں فوج کے پاس زیر علاج ہیں۔

گو کہ عقیل اور اس کی قبیل کے لوگ پنجاب میں فرقہ پرست جماعتوں پر پابندی کے بعد ہی سے صوبہ سرحد منتقل ہو گئے تھے۔ تحریک طالبان پنجاب کا نام پہلی مرتبہ گزشتہ برس اس وقت سامنے آیا جب چکوال میں شیعہ مسلک کی مسجد پر خودکش حملے کی ذمہ داری قبول کرتے ہوئے میڈیا کے ارکان کو ٹیلی فون پر اپنا تعارف بعض افراد نے تحریک طالبان پنجاب کے طور پر کروایا