By Bill Roggio December 15 2009 The Long War Journal
A bombing in a market in the southern district of Pakistan’s Punjab province killed 33 people and wounded scores more.
Police believe a car bomb was detonated at a taxi stand in a busy market in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan. More than 60 people have been reported wounded, some critically, while more than 20 people may still be trapped in the rubble.
The blast was so large that more than 10 buildings collapsed, while 10 more were damaged. The likely target of the attack was the home of a senior adviser to the chief minister of Punjab province. The adviser’s home was badly damaged in the attack.
Today’s attack follows the first attack in South Punjab province in the Taliban’s recent terror offensive on Dec. 8, when a Taliban suicide assault team targeted the counterterrorism branch of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency in the city of Multan.
The Taliban have been targeting the counterterrorism section of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency as well as the Pakistani Central Intelligence agency. The ISI counterterrorism branch is responsible for targeting the Taliban and is supported by the US. The Taliban destroyed an ISI counterterrorism section building in Peshawar on Nov. 13, as well as the Pakistani Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Lahore on Oct. 16.
Since the Taliban began their latest terror campaign on Oct. 5, suicide bombers, assault teams, and assassination teams have targeted military and government installations as well as military, political, and tribal leaders in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, and throughout Pakistan’s northwest. The Taliban are demanding that the military end operations in the tribal areas and insisting that the US halt the covert air campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda leaders.
In May, the Taliban indicated they would seek to expand the terror strikes into South Punjab. Hakeemullah Mehsud, then the deputy to Taliban leader Baitullah and now his successor, singled out Multan as part of the Taliban’s target package.
Background on jihadi groups in South Punjab
South Punjab is a hotbed of Pakistani terror groups. Banned terror groups Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, and its radical offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are all active in South Punjab. These groups have taken up common cause with the Taliban and al Qaeda, and are often referred to as the Punjabi Taliban. The terror groups have been supported by Pakistan’s military and the ISI.
South Punjab teems with radical mosques and madrassas, which are used to indoctrinate Pakistani youths to join the jihad. Tens of thousands of members of these terror groups who have gone through training camps are said to be active in South Punjab.
The Pakistani government has denied that terror groups are based in South Punjab. Just last week, the government barred foreign reporters from South Punjab, insisting they can only report from the area after obtaining a permit.
“All foreign journalists are required to get permission from foreign affairs as well as from interior ministries for visiting any specific place especially in South Punjab,” a senior officer of the Punjab government told the Press Trust of India. The official claimed that journalists published “twisted and unfounded” facts about terror groups operating there.