Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a newly formed Pakistani jihadist group, released photographs of the suicide bomber who attacked the Wagah border crossing to India on Nov. 2.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, the spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, sent three photographs of “brother Hanifullah (Hamza)” to The Long War Journal. Hanifullah “carried out successful martyrdom operation on murtad [a Muslim who rejects Islam] army in Wagah Lahore,” Ihsan said in the email.
One of the photographs shows Hanifullah sitting in a field. In another photograph, he is sitting in front of a green screen, likely recording his martyrdom statement. The third image appears to be the announcement for his upcoming video.
The Nov. 2 suicide attack at the Wagah border crossing, which is just east of Lahore, killed more than 50 people and wounded over 100. The suicide bomber detonated his vest hundreds of yards from the area where Pakistani and Indian border guards put on a daily display of lowering their flags that attracts thousands of people.
After the attack, both Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Jundullah both claimed credit for the suicide attack in Wagah. But Jamaat-ul-Ahrar’s spokesman immediately identified the suicide bomber as Hanifullah and promised that a video of the attack was forthcoming. He also rejected competing claims of responsibility for the attack by other jihadist groups as “baseless.”
Ihsan said the suicide bombing was “the revenge of the killing of those innocent people who have been killed by Pakistan Army particularly of those who have been killed in North Waziristan.” The Pakistani military launched an operation in North Waziristan in mid-June and has targeted the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and foreign jihadist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Other Pakistani Taliban factions such as the Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group have not been targeted in the operation.
The Pakistani military has claimed it targeted “terrorists involved in Wagah border suicide attack” in an airstrike in the tribal agency of Khyber on Nov. 11. “Intelligence sources believe that the mastermind and handlers of Wagah border incident might be among the dead,” Dawn reported.
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the newest branch of the global jihadist group, is known to operate in Khyber. On Oct. 11, the US killed Sheikh Imran Ali Siddiqi, a member of AQIS’s shura, or executive council, in a drone strike in the tribal agency. AQIS has incorporated various jihadist groups from Pakistan, India, Burma, and Bangladesh, and seeks to overthrow these governments and impose sharia, or Islamic law. [See LWJ reports, AQIS leader, ‘good’ Taliban commander killed in 2 US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas and US drone strike kills veteran jihadist turned senior AQIS official.]
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which was formed in late August after a leadership dispute with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is comprised of jihadist factions, including the Mohmand Taliban branch, that have been involved in deadly suicide attacks and assaults throughout Pakistan. Just two weeks before the group officially announced its formation, it participated in a joint suicide assault with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan on two Pakistani military airbases in Quetta. [See LWJ reports, Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar forms in northwestern Pakistan and Quetta airbase attacks carried out by Pakistani Taliban, IMU.]
Omar Khalid al Khorasani, one of the top leaders of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, is closely allied with al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.