The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility for today’s suicide assault that targeted a Shiite mosque in the northwestern provincial capital of Peshawar. At least 20 people were reported killed in the deadly attack.
Four Taliban fighters armed with assault rifles and suicide vests entered the mosque during morning prayer, according to Dawn. Reports of what happened next are unclear. Pakistani officials claimed that one suicide bomber detonated his vest, one was killed by security forces, and another was wounded and subsequently captured. Witnesses told Dawn that one suicide bomber detonated, while three others opened fire on the crowd.
Initial reports indicate that at least 20 people were killed and more than 50 were wounded in the Taliban assault.
Muhammad Khurasani, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, claimed credit for today’s attack, and said it was executed “to avenge the killing of Usman,” according to a statement received by The Long War Journal. Khurasani is referring to Dr. Usman, the Taliban commander who led the assault and siege on Pakistan’s Army General Headquarters in October 2009. The Pakistani government executed Dr. Usman at the end of December.
“This is a series that will continue to draw blood for blood,” the Taliban spokesman said, warning of “more severe” attacks in the future.
In a separate email which included a photograph of the four-man suicide assault team, Khurasani described the attack as a “blessed operation.” Khurasani also sent a short video of the suicide bombers.
Today’s attack is the second by jihadist groups that have targeted a Shiite mosque in the past two weeks. On Jan. 31, Jundullah, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan splinter group that purportedly joined the Islamic State last November, attacked another mosque in Shikarpur, killing at least 49 people. (Note: Jundullah was not included in the Islamic State’s announcement that declared the establishment of Khorasan province; see LWJ report, Islamic State appoints leaders of ‘Khorasan province,’ issues veiled threat to Afghan Taliban.)
“Our target was the Shia mosque … They are our enemies,” Jundullah spokesman Fahad Marwat told Dawn while claiming the operation.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and allied groups such as Jundullah have not let up their attacks against civilian targets since the former launched a suicide assault on a military high school in Peshawar on Dec. 16, 2014. More than 140 children and teachers were killed in the horrific attack.
While the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan fractured after a leadership dispute that emerged after the appointment of Mullah Fazlullah as the group’s emir in November 2013, the jihadist group is still capable of plotting, organizing, and executing deadly operations such as today’s assault in Peshawar. [See LWJ report, Discord dissolves Pakistani Taliban coalition.]
The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and its branches, allied groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Shabaab, and by the rival Islamic State. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.