The new year in Pakistan started with multiple blasts in Balochistan. Two different, consecutive attacks in Balochistan, one claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami and the second by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, injured nearly a dozen people. The first month of 2018 saw the continuation of the trend of small-scale terrorist attacks – mixed with a couple of significant attacks – in Pakistan, with Balochistan and Pak-Afghan border areas being the epicenter and Pakistani police and other security personnel the target of most of these attacks. This trend has been on the rise since at least last few of months. In this report, we will take a brief look at the terrorist attacks claimed by Islamist terrorist groups in the month of January 2018. This report does not include attacks claimed by ethno-nationalist terrorist groups like BLF, BRA, etc.
Significant terrorist attacks in January 2018:
- 1st January 2018: Twin IED blasts in Chaman, Balochistan injured at least 8 people including 3 security officials. The attack was claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami.
- 2nd January: A suicide attack targeting FC security personnel in Quetta, Balochistan injured 6 security personnel. The attack was claimed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the suicide bomber was identified in TTP’s statement as Ismail Afghani.
- 5th January: IED explosion in Mohmand Agency targeting convoy of FC security personnel injured one soldier. The attack was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.
- 6th January: Gun attack in Quetta targeting policemen resulted in the death of one cop and injury of another. The attack was claimed by TTP.
- 9th January: Suicide bomber riding a motorcycle targeted a police truck in Quetta, Balochistan which resulted in the deaths of at least 7 people, including 5 security personnel, and injured another 14. The attack was claimed by TTP and the suicide bomber was identified by TTP as Mujahid Ilyas.
- 12th January: Gun attack in North Nazimabad of Karachi city targeting an off-duty police constable who was riding his motorcycle resulted in the death of the cop. The attack was claimed by TTP and TTP also released a video showing the complete assassination of the cop. This attack falls in the category of significant attacks because it occurred in metropolitan Karachi and a surreal video was released by TTP.
- 18th January: Gun attack in Quetta, Balochistan targeting health workers working on anti-polio vaccination program resulted in the deaths of two female health workers. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.
Minor Attacks in January 2018:
- 3rd January: Two terrorists were killed in an explosion while planting a bomb in DI Khan. Later reports emerged that the explosion was caused when Pakistani security forces opened fire on the terrorists who were planting the bomb. One of the terrorists who died in the explosion was involved in the killing Pak Army’s fallen hero Major Ishaq. TTP later released a statement, confirming that both terrorists were its members.
- 5th January: Gun attack targeting Shia Muslims in Quetta resulted in the death of a Shia man. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.
- 6th January: A failed ambush gun attack, involving two terrorists, targeting a police convoy in Quetta, Balochistan resulted in the deaths of two terrorists. The failed attack was claimed by TTP and TTP also released photos of one of the terrorists, identified by TTP as Commander Anas. This was TTP’s second attack on 6th Jan.
- 16th January: Gun attack in Quetta, Balochistan targeting a police constable resulted in his death. The attack was claimed by TTP.
- 17th January: Terrorists attacked Pakistani security forces engaged in a search operation in Jani Khel, Bannu. The attack resulted in the deaths of multiple terrorists while at least two security personnel were also injured. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack and released photo of one of the terrorists killed in the gunfight.
- 18th January: Gun attack in Quetta, Balochistan targeting police personnel resulted in the deaths of two police constables. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.
- 21st January: Gun attack in Quetta, Balochistan targeting a former police official – identified as Fazal-ur-Rehman Kakar, a key figure in 2011’s Kharotabad incident – which resulted in his death. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. TTP mentioned Fazal-ur-Rehman’s involvement in Kharotabad incident as the primary reason for his assassination.
- 25th January: Gun attack in Sialkot, Punjab targeting police convoy injured two policemen. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami claimed responsibility.
- 28th January: Gun attack in Quetta, Balochistan targeting an off-duty policeman resulted in his death. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.
- 29th January: Gun attack in Quetta, Balochistan targeting vehicle of Custom officials which resulted in the death of at least one Custom official and injured multiple others. The attack was claimed by TTP.
Cross-border Attacks from Afghanistan (reported and unreported):
Following is the list of all the cross-border attacks claimed by Islamist terrorist groups in January 2018. The list includes both reported and unreported attacks. Reported attacks are those that have been covered in the media or confirmed by Pakistani government or military. An unreported attack is the one that has been claimed by a group but went unreported in the media or could not be confirmed by the government or military. Since we rely on information coming from government, military and/or the media for confirmation of terrorist attacks, in the absence of such confirmation there is no other way for us to verify that some or all of these unreported attacks claimed by different groups even took place or not.
- 4th January: Hizbul Ahrar claimed cross-border attack in Mohmand Agency targeting Pakistani check-posts. The attack could not be confirmed.
- 6th January: Missile attack from Afghanistan targeting Pakistani security check-post in Mohmand Agency. The attack was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. The attack was reported in media and confirmed by local administration.
- 10th January: TTP claimed mine blast attack in North Waziristan’s border belt region targeting Pakistani soldiers. The attack went unreported and could not be confirmed.
- 11th January: Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed two cross border attacks; a missile attack in Khyber Agency’s Landi Kotal targeting a Pakistani military camp and a guerrilla attack in Bajaur Agency’s Naogi targeting Pakistani soldiers. Both attacks went unreported and could not be confirmed.
- 12th January: TTP claimed a cross-border sniper fire attack in Bajaur Agency targeting Pakistani troops. The attack could not be confirmed.
- 12th January: Hizbul Ahrar claimed a cross-border gun attack in Mohmand Agency targeting Pakistani check-posts. The attack could not be confirmed.
- 14th January: Tehreek Lashkar-e-Islam Pakistan claimed two cross-border attacks; one in Khyber Agency (Rajgal) targeting Pakistani soldiers and the other in Sipah (Daraab Sar) targeting a Pakistani tank. Both attacks could not be confirmed.
- 17th January: Hizbul Ahrar claimed rocket attack in Mohmand Agency’s Wadi Soran targeting a Pakistani check-post from Afghanistan. The attack could not be confirmed.
- 19th January: Hizbul Ahrar claimed cross-border gun attack targeting Pakistani check-posts at Salala, Mohmand Agency from Afghanistan. HuA statement said one militant named Minhaj Umri was also killed in Pakistani retaliatory fire. The attack could not be independently confirmed.
- 21st January: Hizbul Ahrar claimed cross-border gun attack in Mohmand Agency targeting Pakistani check-posts. Attack could not be confirmed.
- 23rd January: Hizbul Ahrar claimed cross-border gun attack in Mohmand Agency targeting Pakistani check-posts. Attack could not be confirmed.
- 25th January: TTP claimed two-hour long cross-border attack in Arandu, Chitral along Pak-Afghan border targeting multiple Pakistani check-posts. Arandu lies on the border with Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Attack could not be confirmed.
- 28th January: TTP claimed cross-border attack in Bajaur Agency targeting Pakistani security check-posts and soldiers who were fencing the border. TTP statement said 15 fighters took part & even went on to say that Pakistani military launched artillery strikes in retaliation. The attack could not be independently confirmed.
- 28th January: Tehreek Lashkar-e-Islam Pakistan claimed cross-border sniper fire attack targeting a Pakistani soldier in Rajgal Valley, Khyber Agency. The attack could not be confirmed.
Case # 1:
On 16 January 2018 in late hours of afternoon, Pakistani media reported a suicide attack in Malir Cantt area of Karachi city targeting the convoy of a senior police official Rao Anwar of Sindh Police. In the midnight, on 17th January, TTP officially claimed responsibility for the attack and released name and photo of the alleged suicide bomber.
The case took an unexpected turn when around 26th January reports surfaced in Pakistani media that the attack was ‘staged’ by police officer Rao Anwar. The ID card of the supposedly ‘real’ suicide bomber also surfaced in the Pakistani media:
According to reports in Pakistani media since then, Gul Saeed was innocent and was kidnapped by Karachi police before the attack was supposedly staged. There are several questions that could be raised here but since this case is still under investigation by Pakistani authorities and we don’t know what to make of this, it has been categorized here as a special case.
Case # 2:
On 13th January 2018, it was announced by Karachi Police – and reported by Pakistani media – that 4 terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were killed in an encounter in Karachi’s Shah Latif town. Photos of all four dead terrorists surfaced on social media. Around 18th January, reports started emerging in Pakistani media that one of the terrorists killed in the 13th Jan encounter – named Naqeeb Mehsud – was innocent and was kidnapped by Karachi Police before being killed in a staged encounter. Karachi police released two conflicting reports; one reiterating that Naqeeb Mehsud was a TTP militant and the other rejecting the first report and declaring Naqeeb Mehsud innocent.
The family of Naqeeb Mehsud insists that he is innocent of all charges and his social media presence indicates he was into modelling, not terrorism. On 19th January, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar released a statement saying Naqeeb Mehsud was not the member of any militant group. The encounter in which Naqeeb was killed was led by the same official of Karachi Police, SSP Rao Anwar, who is also mentioned in Case # 1 above, and who has been since dismissed from his post. Since this case is also presently under further investigation and since it is also related to the same police official as Case # 1, it has been categorized in this report as a special case.
Major Counter-terrorism operations:
- 1st January: An Al-Qaeda (AQIS) operative was arrested in Karachi in a raid with a weapon, grenade and a vehicle.
- 3rd January: Karachi Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) arrested a terrorist of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Khalid Khurasani Group), identified as M. Ismail, from Karachi.
- 4th January: CTD foiled a terror bid in Peshawar and arrested 3 terrorists of a banned terrorist group along with weapons, explosives and ammo.
- 5th January: A cell of 16 TTP militants was busted in Karachi in a joint operation by Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and Sindh Rangers.
- 5th January: FC Balochistan seized a huge cache of arms, ammo and explosives belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami in an intelligence-based operation in Balochistan.
- 8th January: CTD arrested a member of Islamic State in an intelligence-based operation in Sialkot, Punjab. CTD personnel also recovered explosive material, detonators and other ammunition from him.
- 16th January: Cache of weapons and explosives belonging to Lashkar-e-Balochistan seized by Pakistani security forces in Hub, Balochistan.
The first month of 2018 saw a consistent rise in a) attacks targeting Pakistani police and other security forces, with a majority of these attacks claimed by TTP, and b) cross-border attacks, with a large portion of these attacks claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar. Islamic State carried out a total of three attacks in January 2018, all three of them in Quetta, where Islamic State still seems to have an active cell.
A large portion of urban terrorist attacks were reported in one city: Quetta. Balochistan province, which appears to have strong presence of both TTP and Islamic State, remained a challenge for Pakistani security forces, and will continue to remain a challenge in coming months.
No major terrorist attack with a death toll of over 10 was reported in Pakistan in January 2018. The terrorist attack which caused the highest death toll – 7 dead – was the 9th January suicide attack in Quetta which was claimed by TTP.
- Pakistani security forces should take serious security measures in Quetta to curb attacks on security forces.
- Pakistani security forces should try to dismantle the highly active IS cell in Quetta.
- Pakistani government must introduce different counter-terrorism and counter-extremism programs for police and other security forces to ensure better performance. Political appointments must end. Cases of alleged fake encounters by police validate narrative of terrorist groups like TTP, JuA, etc who have long claimed that Pakistani police and other security forces kill their members in staged shoot-outs. This narrative eventually helps these groups recruit more naive foot soldiers from the public.
- Pakistani government should repatriate Afghan refugees as soon as possible since they provide camouflage to terrorists, as is proven by latest US drone strike in Kurram Agency which reportedly targeted a facility where terrorists were hiding among Afghan refugees.
- Pakistani government should stay vigilant against Islamic seminaries where hatred is being preached and take steps to introduce a national counter-extremism program of international standard.