Afghanistan, Pakistan trade blame for terror attacks
Terrorism | Retaliatory airstrikes rain fire on border-dwelling Islamic militants
by Anna K. Poole
Posted 2/21/17, 05:54 pm
After a spell of relative quiet, Islamic terror is making a comeback in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the last week, Islamic State (ISIS) and the Taliban claimed four attacks that left 100 dead. The uptick in bloodshed prompted a deadly backlash from the Pakistani military and triggered ill will between Islamabad and Kabul, with each government accusing the other of breeding insurgents.
Today, a Taliban splinter faction known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed a bomb attack outside a courthouse in northwest Pakistan that killed six people. The terror group sent three suicide bombers into Tangi, a town close to the Afghanistan border, but local security forces gunned down two before their vests detonated. Pakistan’s army chief praised the forces for foiling the attack and “saving many lives,” according to a military statement.
Last week, an ISIS-linked suicide attack on a Sufi Muslim shrine in Sehwan, southern Pakistan, slaughtered 88 and wounded at least 300 more, setting in motion a chain of retaliatory raids, arrests, and military airstrikes. In the past week, the country’s security forces arrested nearly 50 suspected terrorists. On Monday, the Pakistani military said its warplanes killed dozens of Islamic insurgents tucked in the porous border region of North Waziristan.
“Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone,” said Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Three days earlier, a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomber blasted a protest rally in Lahore, killing 13 and wounding another 83. A spokesman for the terror group claimed this attack was “just the start,” according to a recent Al-Jazeera report.
Just days after the terrorist bombings in Lahore and Sehwan, ISIS fighters attacked a security post in eastern Nangarhar province, killing 17 Afghan soldiers, according to local officials. The same day, the Taliban attacked several police stations in eastern Kunar, killing five Afghan officers.
Despite the commonality of attacks on Pakistan and Afghanistan, the rift between the nations looks to be deepening. Last week, Pakistan closed two border crossings, claiming the recent bombings are masterminded by militants harbored in Afghanistan. For proof, Pakistani officials handed their counterparts in Kabul a list of 76 terror suspects believed to be hiding in their country.
For more than a decade, Pakistan has been locked in bitter, if sporadic, conflict with Islamic militants. In recent years, the country ended peace talks and launched an ongoing offensive against militant strongholds in the tribal regions along the Afghan border. But insurgents have continued attacks around the country.
“Terrorism isn’t a novelty for us. Our story has been one of constant struggle against its grasp and a fight for the soul of Pakistan,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Anna K. Poole
Anna is a WORLD Journalism Institute graduate and former WORLD correspondent.