A suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck at a government office in the Mohmand region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwest Pakistan on Friday, killing at least
48 65 and wounding over 100. This is an area where the Pakistani military has fought the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (the Taliban Movement of Pakistan). CNN reports that 20 shops, 5 houses, and the local jail were damaged by the massive blast. Officials fear that many bodies may be under the rubble.
Update: Express Tribune has video, saying that the death toll has already risen, and suggests that the target may have been a nearby meeting of tribal elders opposed to the Taliban. That explanation is speculative, however, since it raises the question of why that site wasn’t hit instead:
The blast closed the road between Bajaur, the northernmost FATA unit, and Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa Province that is largely made up of ethnic Pashtuns.
Mohmand in Pakistan abuts the troubled Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar, the site of recent fierce fighting between Taliban and US/ NATO forces. Taliban fighters and tribesmen sympathetic to them take refuge from NATO counter-attacks over in Pakistan’s rugged FATA area.
The Taliban may have lashed out at civilians in this way in frustration at losses they are suffering, both in Pakistan as the Pakistani army takes them on, as well as in Kunar and other Afghan provinces, where their former ally, the Hizb-i Islami of Gulbadin Hikmatyar, is now providing valuable intelligence on Taliban movements to NATO and the US.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani Northwest remains a no man’s land where information and loyalties always remain murky. WaPo explores the ways the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, a putative US ally, runs double agents in the Central Intelligence Agency to find out what the Agency’s plans are.
Former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, stirred up many heated feelings when he suggested in Politico that the best US option is to withdraw to the Tajik and Hazara north of Afghanistan and cede the Pashtun south to the Taliban, using air power to contain the militants in t he large Pashtun region.
People are sensitive about foreigners trying to break up their country, and however logical Blackwill’s position, its public expression will make Gen. David Petraeus’s diplomatic and military mission that much more difficult.