Islamists deny Peshawar blast; conspiracy theories proliferate

The Pakistani media have quoted Taliban and al-Qaeda sources denying responsibility for the car bomb that ripped through a market in Peshawar Oct. 28, killing 105 people, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on a visit to Pakistan. The same day saw a dawn attack in Kabul, in which six UN employees and three guards were killed in a gunfight that also left three assailants dead. Islamist denials of a hand in the attacks have sparked a frenzy of conspiracy-theorizing in the Pakistani press.

Pakistan’s daily The News quoted an al-Qaeda statement denying responsibility for the Peshawar attack, in which most of those killed were women and children. The statement said that elements who want to defame the jihad were really behind the attack. The insurgent Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in an e-mail sent to the media, also condemned the Peshawar blast and denied involvement. The Pakistani military remains engaged in a major offensive against the TTP in South Waziristan.

Responding to widespread claims that India’s intelligence services were behind the Peshawar and Kabul attacks, The News ran an editorial insisting both attacks were homegrown, and planned “within a few miles” of where they were carried out.

“This was not some plot hatched and executed by mad Hindus or Sikhs, this is a plot that will have been hatched within a few miles of where the blast occurred, by men who believe that their piety and vision of a Muslim future world, wherein their own paradigm will rule supreme, is best achieved by shredding the bodies of their fellow Muslims,” The News said in the editorial, headlined “Blitzed.” (IANS, Oct. 29)

Oct. 8 saw a suicide car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 17 by-standers. Popular speculation in Pakistan has blamed India for numerous violent outrages in recent months.

See our last posts on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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  1. More terror in Pakistan
    At least 35 people, including two women and children, were killed and 63 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a branch of the National Bank of Pakistan in Rawalpindi Nov. 2. Most of the victims were military personnel and employees of the Defense Ministry who had queued up at the NBP Shalimar Plaza Branch to draw their salaries. (Daily Times, Nov. 2)

  2. UN withdraws foreign staff from Afghanistan
    The UN has decided to withdraw its non-essential foreign staff from Afghanistan in response to growing insecurity in the question. About 600 non-Afghan employees of the UN’s 1,100 international staff will be temporarily transferred to other positions, said a spokesman. “Only those considered essential will remain. It is a decision clearly intended to ensure the security of all our staff in Afghanistan.” About 4,400 Afghan staff remain in the country. The decision, coming as it does eight days after the Taliban attack on the UN guesthouse in Kabul in which five UN employees were killed, will be re-evaluated “within the next few weeks.” The removed staff will meanwhile wait in Dubai. This is the first time the United Nations has removed staff from Afghanistan since the Taliban regime ordered the UN out of the country in 1998. Pperations continued from neighboring Pakistan. (The Guardian, RTE, AGI, Nov. 5)

  3. India denies aiding Pakistan’s militants
    This is getting pretty wacky. From the BBC Nov. 4:

    Pakistani’s chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said recently that Pakistani troops had recovered “Indian arms, ammunition, literature and medical equipment” from Sherwangi, a key militant base.

    Interior Minister Rehman Malik had also recently alleged that India was supplying arms to the Taliban.

    SM Krishna has denied both the charges.

    “We have absolutely nothing to do with whatever is happening in Balochistan or whatever is happening within Pakistan. I think it is their own making,” Mr Krishna was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

    “I don’t think that there is any effective government functioning there.”

    SM Krishna has a pretty poor sense of western Pakistan’s geography for somebody who is allegedly overseeing the insurgency there. Sherwangi village (like the current Pakistani military offensive) is in South Waziristan, not Baluchistan. And how likely is it that India is backing the same terrorist network that has repeatedly attacked India? Are Gen. Abbas and Minister Malik utterly cynical or completely paranoid?

    We’re just curious.

  4. More terror in Pakistan
    A suicide bomber struck a goat market in Adazi, some 10 miles south of Peshawar, killing eight people in an attack apparently aimed at a local mayor. The mayor, Abdul Malik, survived the attack but was wounded, police official Naseem Khan said. Militants have struck numerous times in Pakistan in the weeks since the government offensive began in South Waziristan, killing more than 300 civilians and members of the security forces. (UK Press Association, Nov. 8)

    1. Taliban strike back at villagers
      Later news reports indicate that Adazi mayor Abdul Malik was killed in the attack, and was targeted because he organized a local lashkar (militia) in collaboration with the police and provincial leaders to fight the militant organizations of the Khyber Agency, Lashkar-i-Islam. (Dawn, Nov, 10)

  5. The latest Afghanistan conspiracy theory…
    …holds that Western forces are using their helicopters to ferry Taliban fighters to Kunduz and elsewhere in the north of the country to spread the insurgency. An Oct. 29 IWPR report on Asia Times quotes anonymous Afghan soldiers who claim to have seen Taliban fighters disembarking from foreign helicopters. ISAF and Afghan government deny it. Nothing is provided by way of a motive, beyond creating chaos to justify the foreign presence in the country.

  6. More terror in Pakistan
    At least 30 were killed and more than 40 injured on Nov. 10 in a car bomb blast in the northwest Pakistani city of Charsadda. The bomb went off on a road intersection near a busy market, destroying several shops and cars. The death toll is expected to rise. No group has claimed responsibility.

    The previous day, a suicide bomber in a rickshaw blew himself up near a group of police officers in Peshawar, killing three. (RIA-Novosti, Nov. 10)

  7. Taliban fight with US weapons
    Al-Jazeera broadcast video footage showing Afghan insurgents handling weapons, including anti-personnel mines, with US markings on them. The network reported that insurgents said they seized the weapons from two remote US outposts in Nuristan province. It was unclear when the footage was filmed. (AP, Nov. 11)

  8. More terror in Pakistan
    A car bomb explosion has killed at least 16 people and badly damaged an office of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. A suicide bomber rammed also a vehicle packed with explosives into a police station in Bannu, NWFP, killing three officers, injuring 12 and trapping others under the rubble. The death toll is expected to rise. (NYT, AlJazeera, AFP, Nov. 13)

  9. More terror in Afghanistan
    A car bomb exploded near a NATO convoy just outside the US military’s base Camp Phoenix at the Kabul airport early Nov. 13, wounding civilian contractors, foreign soldiers and Afghan bystanders. (Reuters, Nov. 13)

  10. More terror in Pakistan
    Ten are dead after a suicide car bombing on the outskirts of Peshawar Nov. 14. Police say the bomber was targeting a security checkpoint, but four children and a woman are among the dead. About two dozen people are said to have been wounded. (AP, Nov. 14)

  11. More terror in Afghanistan
    On Nov. 16, three rockets fired by Taliban militants hit a crowded bazaar in Kapisa province 80 kilometers northeast of capital city Kabul, killing 10 Afghan civilians and injuring 29 others. (Xinhua, Nov. 17)

  12. More terror in Pakistan
    A suicide bomb attack in Peshawar killed 19 people and injured more than 25 Nov. 19. A man blew himself up when he was stopped by a police while trying to enter the district law offices. The death toll is expected to rise. (Bloomberg, Nov. 19)

  13. More terror in Afghanistan
    A suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a senior police official in a crowded market area of Afghanistan’s Farah city Nov. 20, killing the official and at least 12 others. (BBC News, Nov, 20)

  14. Another anti-Taliban leader assassinated in Pakistan
    Shahfur Khan, an anti-Taliban tribal leader, was killed Nov. 27 in an evidently targeted roadside bombing near Badan in Bajaur Agency, the latest attack against pro-government militias near northwestern Pakistan’s Afghan border. The authorities also found the body of Ameer Saiyed, another anti-Taliban tribal elder, who was seized from his home late the previous day. Meanwhile, 34 militants were reported killed in continued fighting in the border region. (Daily Times, Pakistan, Press TV, Iran, Nov, 28; AP, Nov. 27)

  15. More terror in Pakistan
    A presumed Taliban suicide bomber killed Dr. Shamsher Ali Khan, a member of the NWFP provincial assembly with the secular Awami National Party (ANP), as he was greeting friends and constituents outside his home in Swat Dec. 1. Khan’s brother was also killed in the attack, which came as Dr. Khan was seeing off guests who had gathered at his home for the Eid al-Adha holiday. (Dawn, Dec. 1)

  16. More terror in Afghanistan
    A suicide bomber killed eight Afghans and wounded more than 40 Dec. 15 blocks from the US embassy in Kabul. The targeted Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood is a favorite of Afghan officials and foreign diplomats. Former Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud lives near the site of the bombing, but he wasn’t home at the time of the attack. Nearby concrete barriers shielded his home from the blast. (McClatchy, Dec. 15)