Attacks on a single target by multiple suicide bombers are relatively rare. Three attackers made a frontal assault on the Charsadda sessions courts through the main gates, firing as they came and throwing hand grenades in a determined attempt to storm the crowded building. The police and security forces fought back killing two of the attackers, the third died when his vest detonated. At least six people were killed in the attack and approximately 20 injured. These figures may be subject to revision. There can be no doubt that the first-tier response of those guarding the building saved many lives.
The attack was swiftly claimed by the Jamaatul Ahrar (JA) which is a branch of the TTP franchise, and demonstrates the breadth of operational spread that the JA has — from Sehwan in Sindh to Charsadda in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, a 40-minute drive from the provincial capital of Peshawar. The JA said in a call to the media that the attack was a part of their Ghazi operation, as was the attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine, and the JA is emerging as the most active current player in the terrorist constellation.
Laudable as the valiant efforts were of those on duty at the gates of the court, questions have to be asked yet again as to whether or not the attack constitutes an intelligence failure. The logistics behind the attack would have been complex in terms of weapons, explosives and other munitions — but not so complex as to be beyond the capacity of resourceful terrorists, who would have needed a place to eat and sleep prior to carrying out the attack. There is a well established substructure that now exists within the country that is populated by a range of groups under a generic TTP banner. Included within that population is Islamic State (IS), a reality long denied at a senior level of government. There is a gaping hole where there ought to be a plan, and it is not possible to arrest and detain a way out of the terror maze. Dial back the delusion before it is too late.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.
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