Militants bombed two mosques in in Pakistan June 12, killing at least eight, including a cleric who was an outspoken critic of the Taliban. In Lahore, a suicide bomber detonated his payload inside the religious complex run by Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi, a leading Sunni cleric who was vocal in his opposition to suicide attacks and other Taliban tactics. The attack seemed aimed specifically at Naeemi, whose quarters near the entrance of the mosque were completely destroyed. At least four others were killed in the attack. Another mosque bombing in Nowshera, northwest of Islamabad, killed at least three and injured more than 20.
The blasts were the latest in a series of suicide bombings and other militant attacks in Pakistan, where the government’s military campaign against the Taliban insurgency continues. The attacks—including a massive truck bombing at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar June 9—have deepened anger against the Taliban. Shortly after Friday’s explosion in Lahore, hundreds of mourners gathered within the mosque, chanting “Death to the Taliban.”
The Lahore attacker was clean-shaven, not bearded, according to police and mosque officials who saw the attacker’s head after the blast (which will doubtless lead to all manner of unseemly conspiracy-theorizing).
Naeemi followed the Barelvi school of thought within Sunni Islam in Pakistan, which rejects the more fundamentalist Deobandi school followed by the Taliban. In 2007, he and other clerics issued an edict against suicide bombing. He supported the military offensive in the Swat Valley and had termed Taliban a “stigma on Islam.” Earlier this month, he and other clerics led a rally in Lahore condemning the Taliban as “enemies of Islam and traitors.”
Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, a member of the national assembly and chairman of Sunni Ittihad Council, an alliance of religious parties opposed to the Taliban, called the killing of Naeemi, a “national tragedy.”
In an address the day after the attacks, President Asif Ali Zardari pledged to continue fighting the Taliban “until the end,” saying: “We are fighting a war with those who want to impose their agenda on this nation with force and power,” Zardari said. “This is the war for the survival of our country. These people murdered thousands of innocent people. By spreading terror in Pakistan and by scaring people, they want to take over the institutions of Pakistan. They do everything in the name of Islam, but they do not have anything to do with Islam. They are cruel. They are terrorists.” (NYT, AP, June 12)