Pakistani Taliban claims responsibility for suicide attack on paramilitary leader

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Wednesday's suicide attack targeting the forces involved in operations against the Pakistani Taliban and the recent arrest of Al Qaeda operatives.

Arshad Butt/AP
Pakistani security official and media gather at the site of suicide bombing in Quetta, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 7. A pair of suicide bombers attacked the house of a top military officer in the southwestern city of Quetta, killing his wife and scores of other people, including soldiers, authorities said.

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The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for two suicide bombs in Quetta on Wednesday that targeted the country's paramilitary forces, but reports conflict about their motives for the attack.

CNN reports it was retaliation for an operation against the Pakistani Taliban last year. Agence France-Presse reports that the attack was a possible revenge for the arrest in Quetta Al Qaeda operatives, to which the Pakistani Taliban have a close relationship.

The attack comes two days after Pakistan announced the arrest of a trio of Al Qaeda operatives, one of them the group's "foreign minister," and gave some of the credit to intelligence sharing between the US and Pakistan. The successful operation was heralded as a sign of improving US-Pakistan relations after several tense months. Still, some worry that the attack could have a chilling effect on future cooperation or Pakistani determination to root out Al Qaeda operatives and cells in the country.

One of the attackers detonated a bomb-filled car outside the house of the deputy chief of the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary forces responsible for the Monday arrests in Quetta and for patrolling the region along the Afghan border, a militant stronghold. The second bomber detonated himself inside the house, AFP reports.

At least 24 people were killed, including Deputy Chief Farrukh Shahzad's wife, and 82 were wounded, including him. The neighborhood is a high-security one with several government offices and homes belonging to high-level government officials, The New York Times notes.

The Pakistani Taliban told AFP it "will launch bigger attacks in the future."

On Monday the Pakistani Army announced the arrests of Sheikh Younis al-Mauritani, Abdul Ghaffar al-Shami, and Messara al-Shami and credited intelligence cooperation between the US and Pakistan, The Christian Science Monitor reported Tuesday. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence was also involved in Monday's operation.

In its press statement, the [Pakistani] Army highlighted the “strong, historic intelligence relationship” between Pakistan and the US that resulted in the successful capture of Mauritani, adding: “The intimate cooperation between Pakistan and United States Intelligence agencies has resulted into prevention of number of high profile terrorist acts not only inside Pakistan/United States but elsewhere also in world.”

An editorial in the Pakistani newspaper the Dawn praised the cooperation as a new page for the two countries.

Younis Al Mauritani's arrest could well mark renewal of anti-terrorism cooperation between the ISI and US intelligence agencies after months of mutual distrust and unseemly public mudslinging. On Monday, while announcing the catch, both Islamabad and Washington emphasised the bilateral efforts that had gone into the arrest of Sheikh Mauritani — dubbed Al Qaeda’s ‘foreign minister’ — and two of his colleagues in a Quetta suburb and pledged future cooperation. While Islamabad said the arrest was “planned and conducted with the technical assistance” of American agencies, a White House spokesman stated that the US continued to work “with our partner Pakistan”. Mercifully, some sense now appears to have dawned.

True, many issues still remain to be sorted out if Pakistan and the US are to overcome mutual distrust. But Sheikh Mauritani’s arrest, and the positive reactions of both sides, could well herald a return to the pre-Davis state of intelligence cooperation.

The arrests, which came after Al Qaeda second-in-command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman was killed last week in a drone attack "may also signal a return to the relationship of the early 2000s when Pakistan handed over a string of high-profile Al Qaeda operatives to the US," the Monitor reports.

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