May 16, 2007

Stratfor on the Peshawar Suicide Bombings

Here is Stratfor's article on the latest suicide bombings and unrest in Pakistan.

A bomb exploded about 12:45 p.m. local time May 15 in the ground-floor restaurant of the four-story Marhaba Hotel in the center of Peshawar, Pakistan, 110 miles west of the Pakistani capital near the Afghan border. This is the second suicide bombing in the North-West Frontier Province in the past three weeks. On April 28, Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao was wounded in an assassination attempt in Charsadda, about 45 miles north of Peshawar. Sherpao survived, but 28 people died.

The May 15 attack could have been retaliation for the killing of top Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah. Additional attacks are likely and will add to the growing political instability and insecurity in Pakistan.

The timing and location of the attack indicate it was planned to cause maximum casualties. The locally owned restaurant is located near the centuries-old Mahabat Mosque in the crowded center of the city. It is famous for its Pashtun cuisine and is one of the most popular lunch spots among Afghan nationals in Peshawar. Because it is on the ground floor, the restaurant offered the attacker easy access. Because the Marhaba is a local establishment mainly catering to Afghans, security probably was not as tight as it would be at larger chain hotels catering to Westerners. During lunchtime in the middle of the city, the restaurant would have been crowded. The combination of easy access and a large concentration of people guaranteed a high casualty count.

The motive for targeting the hotel is unclear. Many jihadist suicide attacks target hotels frequented by Westerners or other foreigners, but the Marhaba's clientele is mostly Afghan nationals. Authorities picked up one of Dadullah's relatives from the hotel days before the Taliban leader's death in Afghanistan. The detained relative reportedly provided intelligence that led to the engagement that ended in Dadullah's death. Intelligence agencies the world over use hotels for source meetings and, given that such an encounter took place at the Marhaba with Dadullah's relative, the target for the attack could have been a source meeting.

The jihadists are watching the political temperature rise in Pakistan due to the ongoing judicial crisis and are trying to take advantage of the situation by increasing their own activity. Furthermore, Dadullah's death forced them to strike back. The Peshawar bombing, coupled with the May 14 attack on U.S. and Pakistani troops holding a meeting at a border checkpoint, constitutes the beginning of a fresh wave of suicide bombings in the country. These attacks, along with Pakistan's ongoing political unrest, could hasten the collapse of the President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's regime.[Stratfor]

No comments: