Suicide blasts rocked Pakistan’s cultural capital of Lahore for the second time this week, killing at least 45 people Friday and rebuffing notions that recent arrests and killings of Taliban leaders have weakened the militants’ capacity to strike deep inside the country.
Friday’s twin bombs, apparently timed to hit large crowds on their way to afternoon prayers, may also have targeted military and security offices in the area. Military officials are said to be among the 95 wounded, reports Pakistan’s Dawn. ABC News reports that one of the bombers detonated his explosive next to Army vehicles parked near a bazaar. Reuters reports at least 45 killed in the bloodiest attack this year.
No group has claimed responsibility.
The attack appears part of an ever-escalating campaign by militant groups to retaliate against the country’s security forces. Allied militant groups have killed 600 people since October when Pakistan’s Army, under US pressure, began laying siege to militant enclaves in South Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies, according to the Associated Press.
This week’s bombings have shattered a fragile calm that had prevailed over the eastern city for weeks. On Monday, a suicide bomber struck a building in the city where intelligence forces are reported to have interrogated militant suspects. At least 13 people were killed.
Today’s attack caps a particularly grim week for Pakistan.
Five people were killed on Thursday in sectarian clashes in Karachi, the country’s largest city, while the same day a suicide bombing killed four people in Kyber Agency, an area near the Afghan border where violence has flared in recent weeks, reports Pakistan’s Daily Times newspaper. And on Wednesday, armed gunmen stormed the offices of a Christian charity in Northwestern Pakistan, killing six Pakistani employees, as the Christian Science Monitor reported.
Lately, the Taliban and their militant allies, including Al Qaeda, appear considerably weakened. Many have been killed in missile attacks apparently launched by US predator drones, while half of the Taliban’s top commanders have been arrested throughout Pakistan, as the Monitor reported.
The recent spate hitting Lahore, however, shows that while militants may be down, they’re not out. They’re still capable of executing simultaneous strikes that penetrate deep inside Pakistan. And that power appears to be growing as militant groups grow stronger in Punjab, the heartland of the country, a troubling development the Christian Science Monitor explored.
As Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaif, a former Taliban official in Kabul, recently told the Monitor, the arrest of Taliban leaders like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the movement’s second in command who was seized last month in Karachi, will not stop the violence.
“You can arrest Mullah Baradar, but there are many Mullah Baradars out there,” says Mr. Zaif. “The commanders are replaceable. The fighters on the ground will keep fighting.”