By Zia Ur Rehman
March 30-April 5, 2012
On March 11, a suicide attacker blew himself up at a funeral in the Badaber area of Peshawar, killing 17 people and injuring 32 others.
Among those attending the funeral was Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly deputy speaker Khushdil Khan. “He could have been the target,” Abdul Kalam Khan, the superintendent of police of Peshawar’s rural circle, told The Friday Times on March 12. On March 15, Abdul Kalam Khan was killed in another suicide attack at Peshawar’s Pistakhara Chowk.
There has been a surge in terrorist attacks in Peshawar in the last few weeks. At least nine incidents of terrorism took place in first three weeks of March this year in Peshawar. In the first two months of 2012, there were 13 terrorist attacks in the city, including a suicide bombing that killed 28 and injured at least 70. There were at least 512 terrorist attacks in KP in 2011, according to a report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, more than 149 of which were in Peshawar.
Areas of Peshawar where there is known militant presence include Adezai, Matani, Teleband, Sulemankhel, Darwazgai, Badaber, Shaikhan, Batatal, Ghari Qamar Din, Mathra, Bacha Ghari, Maryamzai, Kohat Road, Bara Qadeem, Hassan Ghari, Ring Road and Charsadda Road.
Peshawar’s sufferings began after the ‘Saur Revolution’ in Afghanistan in April 1978. Afghan and Arab Mujahideen groups set up their headquarters in the city in reaction. On an average, Peshawar and the KP province faced one bomb explosion a week in the 1980s and 1990s. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan brought temporary peace, but after the US invasion of Afghanistan, law and order began to deteriorate again.
When Pakistani authorities launched a military operation against groups associated with Taliban and Al Qaeda under US pressure in 2004, the militants retaliated with attacks not just in the tribal areas but also in the Peshawar, which was the provincial headquarter and the key air base for troops fighting against the militants.
Police officials say Taliban and other militant groups in the tribal areas that adjoin Peshawar – Khyber Agency, Mohmand Agency and Frontier Region Peshawar – have been extending their influence to the settled areas of the city.
Groups operating in Peshawar include the Tariq Afridi-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Darra Adamkhel chapter, Abdul Wali-led TTP Mohmand Agency, Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) from Khyber Agency, and the Abdullah Azam Brigade (AAB), a little known outfit.
Some tribesmen in the suburbs of Peshawar adjacent to FR Peshawar and Darra Adamkhel have fought off the Taliban and now conduct armed patrols. Houses of Taliban members and supporters were burned down. The Taliban responded by deploying suicide bombers to assassinate tribal leaders and to attack members of the militias during tribal jirgas or funerals. The March 11 suicide bombing is a recent example. Hundreds of people have been killed in such attacks in the last few years.
TTP Darra Adamkhel:
Although the Taliban have no organized structure or known leaders in FR Peshawar or Peshawar district, they have significant influence in Darra Adamkhel, a principle town of FR Kohat.
Responsibility for most of the recent attacks in the city has been claimed by the Afridi-led TTP, according to a local journalist who covers violence in the region. “The groups operate independently,” he said, “but appear to be united in their hostility towards the security forces and law-enforcement agencies.”
The TTP claims to have carried out a significant number of attacks in and around Peshawar where they have targeted senior officials, key law-enforcement establishments, tribal council meetings and funerals of people who participate in anti-Taliban militias.
Muhammad, a spokesman of TTP Darra Adamkhel, said his group mainly targeted security officials and anti-Taliban lashkars in the suburbs of Peshawar. He also claimed responsibility for the February 29 killing of a Chinese woman in Peshawar, saying it was “to avenge the atrocities carried out by Chinese security forces against Muslims in the Xinjiang region”.
TTP Mohmand Agency:
TTP Mohmand Agency has also been accused of killing their rivals and extorting money from Mohmand-based traders in Peshawar. “Many leaders of anti-Taliban lashkars formed in Mohmand Agency have been killed in Peshawar district,” said a tribal elder from the Haleemzai clan. Malik Wazir, a leader of a tribal lashkar, was killed near Bakhstu Pul on Charsadda Road on January 30.
Abdullah Azam Brigade:
The AAB is a special cell formed by TTP whose main function is to attack NATO supplies, abduct security officials and foreigners, and plan terrorist acts. Recently, the group has claimed responsibility for the February 25 suicide attack on Kotwali Police Station that killed four policemen.
The LeI led by Mangal Bagh has been accused recently of asking residents of the Acheni Bala union council area of Peshawar for money in exchange for their security. According to news reports, they were warned their houses would be razed if they did not comply.
There have also been reports of infighting between TTP Darra Adamkhel and the LeI. There were conflicting reports on the death of Mangal Bagh, who was reportedly wounded in a suicide attack on a mosque in Tirah area of Khyber Agency. TTP Darra Adamkhel claimed responsibility for the attack and said Bagh had been killed. But Muhammad Husssain, a spokesman for the LeI, denied the claim saying Mangal Bagh was safe.
Attacks on the police in Peshawar have increased sharply in the last few weeks. Security checkposts in the suburban areas of Peshawar have been attacked on more than a dozen occasions since the February 25 attack, but there were no major casualties. An officer and a constable were killed and two cops injured in a roadside blast on March 20.
“After military operations in the tribal areas, the Taliban are regrouping, especially in Peshawar,” provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reports.
“It is possible that as the military mounts pressure on militant groups in the tribal areas, sleeper cells will be activated in Peshawar,” says a teacher at the University of Peshawar.
Residents of the city are concerned about what is being seen as a failure by the police and law-enforcement agencies to stop the increasing incidents of terrorism. Police officials say it is very hard to secure the suburbs of Peshawar linked with tribal areas or control the movement of Taliban through those borders.