Police and rescue workers stand near a crater, which was made from a suicide bomb targeting the Special Investigation Agency in Lahore. A suicide car bomb attack on a police intelligence unit in Lahore killed at least 12 people and wounded about 89 on Monday during the morning rush hour, officials said. –Reuters Photo/Mohsin Raza
Punjabi Taliban avenge Qari Zafar’s death
By Amir Mir
LAHORE: The March 8 suicide bombing in Lahore’s Model Town is believed to have been carried out by the Punjab chapter of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to avenge the killing of Commander Qari Zafar, the acting Amir of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) in a US drone strike in North Waziristan on February 24, 2010.
While confirming Qari Zafar’s death in a statement faxed to local journalists on February 25, a Lashkar-e-Jhangvi spokesman had described him as a martyr and pledged to avenge his death. “The Mujahideen will soon take revenge from the Pakistani government for his killing by resorting to suicide bombings anywhere in the country,” the LeJ spokesman added. Qari Zafar was killed, along with nine other Punjabi Taliban in the Peerano Killay area of Miramshah, when a drone struck his hideout.
He was wanted by the US as well as Pakistani authorities for his alleged involvement in the March 2, 2006 car bombing outside the US consulate in Karachi which killed three people, including US diplomat David Foy, thus making the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to announce a $5 million bounty on his head.
Originally coming from Karachi, Qari Zafar had joined hands with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and was appointed Amir of the Punjab chapter of the TTP, which is blamed for carrying out a series of bloody Fidayeen attacks in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad in 2009, including the October 10, 2009 assault on the General headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.
The lonely Fidayeen attacker captured alive after the GHQ assault, which also killed a serving Brigadier, was a Punjabi Taliban, Mohammad Aqil alias Dr Usman, who was a key member of the LeJ and a close associate of Qari Zafar. The GHQ attack was reportedly carried out by the Punjabi Taliban to avenge the August 2009 killing of Commander Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone attack in South Waziristan. The Punjabi Taliban is a blanket term used for members of several sectarian and Jihadi groups mainly based in South Punjab.
Those investigating the Model Town bombing say the target of the human bomb, riding a single cabin van, was the K-Block, Model Town office of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) which had actually been created under the umbrella of Punjab Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Primarily an intelligence collection agency, the CID collects, collates and disseminates information to relevant provincial government departments and law-enforcement agencies in a bid to minimise terrorist activities in the Punjab.
However, the SIU was soon separated from the CID as an autonomous police wing working directly under the Punjab Home Department and primarily responsible for interrogation of hardened Jihadi and sectarian terrorists being arrested in the Punjab. While the SIU headquarters is located in the E-Block area of Model Town, its interrogation centre is situated in the K-Block.
The SIU investigators, led by Assistant-Director Malik Rashid, had been interrogating at its K-Block centre some important members of the Punjabi Taliban network, who had been arrested from parts of South Punjab, on the basis of information provided by Aqil alias Usman.
The interrogation of the Punjabi Taliban belonging to the LeJ was carried out jointly by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), headed by Major (retd) Mushtaq and the Special Investigation Group (SIG) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for almost a week after which they were shifted to Rawalpindi a few days ago. The SIG functions as a counterterrorism unit of the FIA and investigates, along with the provincial police department, offences that are punishable under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
Those investigating the Model Town bombing say the attack might have been a coordinated operation to avenge the killing of Qari Zafar, who was working in tandem with a key leader of the TTP, Qari Hussain Mehsud, better known as Ustad-e-Fidayeen. Zafar and Mehsud had last appeared before newsmen on October 5, 2009 in South Waziristan when the TTP chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, thought to have been killed, had addressed a press conference to refute media reports of his death in a US drone attack.
Those investigating the Model Town suicide attack further reminded that hardly a few days before the February 24 death of Qari Zafar, an anti-terrorism court in Karachi had indicted Mohammad Ajmal alias Akram Lahori, the acting chief of the LeJ, in a 2002 murder case. They reminded these two developments and the Model Town bombing incidentally took place exactly a year after the March 2009 serial suicide attacks in Lahore.
On March 4 last year, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Navy War College building on the Mall Road in Lahore, killing eight Navy employees. Six days later, on March 11, terrorists once again struck Lahore by using suicide bombers – the first batch targeted the FIA headquarters on the busy Temple road (killing 33 people), and a few minutes later a second batch targeted the SIU headquarters in the E-Block area of Model Town. However, the suicide bomber riding a van ripped through an advertising agency’s office by mistake, confusing it with the undercover office of the SIU, killing two children and their father – a gardener on the premises.
Subsequent investigations had shown the attackers were the Punjabi Taliban belonging to at least three sectarian-cum-Jihadi groups, which are working in tandem with the Pushtun-dominated South Waziristan-based Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan to carry out joint terrorist attacks. The investigators had reported that some banned militant-cum-sectarian groups in the Punjab are gaining strength after having joined hands with the TTP.
According to them, several members of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (largely belonging to the southern Punjab) who fought in the Afghan war, have tied up with the TTP to carry out attacks against important government, military and police installations.
Source: The News, March 09, 2010