PESHAWAR: In their decade-long bloody campaign, Taliban terrorists have frequently targeted mosques and Imambargahs in an attempt to inflict mass casualties. Friday’s suicide bombing was the 12th targeted at Muslim worshippers. Most of these attacks have taken place in different parts of the tribal belt.
The first suicide attack on a mosque occurred in a village in Akhorwal, Darra Adam Khel, in 2006, a year before the birth of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the group responsible for most militant violence in the country. Around 60 worshippers, including a prominent tribal elder Haji Ghairat Khan Afridi, were killed in the attack.
After a four-year gap, terrorists targeted two mosques in Khyber Agency. More than 60 worshippers were killed when a bomber blew himself up in Ali Masjid, and around 40 people died in an attack on a mosque in Ghundai, Jamrud.
Both attacks were carried out when worshippers had gathered for Friday prayers. Interestingly, some elders believe the Ali Masjid blast was in fact a missile strike by a remotely-piloted US aircraft.
In 2011, a suicide bomber struck at a mosque during Friday prayers in Salarzai tehsil of Bajaur Agency, killing some 45 worshippers. Similar attacks were also carried out in other places in the tribal belt. Around 25 people were also killed in a 2012 suicide attack on a mosque in Nowshera district’s Akbar Pura town.
Sixty people died in a suicide blast targeting worshippers at an Imambargah in Parachinar in December 2014. Another 21 people were killed in a 2015 suicide attack at an imambargah in Hayatabad. Suicide attacks have targeted Imambargahs in Hangu, Mansehra and Dera Ismail Khan as well.
Compared to other terrorist tactics – such as attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – suicide attacks inside mosques and other structures are especially destructive in terms of casualties.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2016.