Pakistan has been accustomed to a number of terror threats over the past few months, ever since the different factions of the Pakistani Taliban joined – the Tehrik-i-Taliban – forces. Pakistani madrassas (Islamic school/institution) have been targeted killing numbers of children and teachers.
Pakistan Taliban reunites with two splinter groups
The Pakistan Taliban brought two splinter groups back into its fold, it announced in a statement, days after the army said nationwide operations against armed groups had brought “hard-earned success”.
The Pakistan Taliban, fighting to overthrow the government, is an umbrella of armed groups called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has broken into many divisions.
The TTP, designated a “terrorist” group by the United States, has been in disarray in recent years, especially after several of its top leaders were killed by US drone attacks on both sides of the border, forcing its members into shelter in Afghanistan, or fleeing to urban Pakistan.
“Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan welcomes them,” the TTP statement said of the two splinter groups, adding that it would like all groups to unite.
— NATO in Afghanistan (@NATOscr) June 17, 2020
The reunion with Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA) appears significant in view of the rise in attacks against security forces, most claimed by the TTP, including some suicide bombings.
Pakistani army spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said last week, however, the military’s operations against armed groups had been very successful.
“The war against terrorism has yielded some hard-earned success,” he told a news conference. “More than 18,000 terrorists have been killed and more than 400 tonnes of explosive material seized” in a countrywide anti-militant operation that started in 2017.
TTP merger: Security implications for Pakistan
Security analysts believe that the reunification of the terror outfit would be a huge setback for Pakistan’s counter-terrorism campaign.
“Terrorism can be weakened, failed and its negative consequences can be mitigated but terrorism cannot be defeated. It always morphs and metastasizes into news forms and shapes,” Abdul Basit, a researcher at Singapore-based the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), told TRT World.
The reunification would also attract dejected and disillusioned militants to return to the outfit. “In the past few months, a surge has been seen in terror attacks by the Taliban in various regions of Pakistan,” he added.
On August 10, the JuA claimed responsibility for an improvised explosive device (IED) planted on a motorcycle in Chaman, Balochistan, that killed six civilians. Police said that the target of the attack was a vehicle carrying personnel from the country’s anti-narcotics force.
The group has also claimed credit for an assault targeting Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan in July and the bombing of Pakistani soldiers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in August.
An annual security report of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank, shows that the TTP has remained one of the major forces of instability in 2019. It was involved in 82 terrorist attacks, out of which 69 were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and 13 from Balochistan.
Attacks surge in northwest Pakistan amid Afghan peace effort
September has seen near-daily incidents, from roadside bombs to sniper attacks, to ambushes and the killing of residents accused of collaborating with government forces.
The rebels have killed at least 40 soldiers since March, according to a Reuters tally of official figures. At least 109 people were killed in 67 attacks between January and July – twice the number of 2019, according to the FATA Research Centre.
“TTP’s regrouping is concerning both because of its own activities and its links to groups like al-Qaeda,” Elizabeth Threlkeld, a former State Department official who served in Pakistan, now deputy-director for the South Asia programme at the Washington-based Stimson Center, told Reuters.
“It could again provide significant support to international terror groups if it continues to regain ground.”
Afghan peace process
The reunion comes at a time when the US is promoting peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the government in Kabul.
The US signed an agreement with the Taliban in February that called for US troops withdrawal in exchange for security guarantee from the Afghan armed group, which has been fighting the Afghan and US-led NATO forces since 2001.
The Pakistan Taliban said the two groups pledged allegiance to the TTP chief, Mufti Noor Wali, shown in photos at a ceremony.
It was not clear what side of the border the ceremony took place. Government and military officials did not comment on the merger or the location of the ceremony.
The JuA, which broke away from the TTP in 2014, has been involved in major attacks, including the 2016 suicide bombing in a park in the eastern city of Lahore that the group said targeted Christians celebrating Easter. It killed more than 70 people. The end to terror threats is far from over and today’s blast at Peshawar is proof.
At least seven killed, 70 injured in Peshawar madrassa blast
At least seven people were killed and over 70 injured, mostly children, after an explosive device in a bag detonated inside a madrassa in Peshawar’s Dir Colony on Tuesday.
Police sources reveal that around 40-50 children were present inside the madrassa when the bomb went off.
SP City Peshawar Waqar Azeem told The Express Tribune that an unidentified man entered the madrassa around 8am and left a suspicious bag in the premises.
He said the bag is believed to have had an IED device that went off when the children started filling in the seminary.
Rescue 1122 arrived at the scene and shifted the victims to the Lady Reading Hospital.
According to the spokesperson of the Lady Reading Hospital, seven bodies have been brought to the hospital so far, whereas the number of injured has risen to 70.
Most of the injured are burnt, the spokesperson stated, adding that they all being given emergency care.
Hospital sources stated that out of the total injured brought to the hospital around 50 are children.
Expressing grief at the loss of precious lives in the blast, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan strongly condemned the incident.
Ordering the police to launch an inquiry immediately, the CM said that those responsible will not be able to escape the law.
The CM further ordered rescue services and hospitals to provide immediate emergency care to those injured.