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IMMINENT WARNING: 59 KILLED, OVER 150 WOUNDED IN PAKISTAN MOSQUE ATTACK

January 30, 2023

Lucy Game, Julia Tsarnas, CENTCOM Team

Salomon Montaguth, Editor; Deepankar Patil, Senior Editor


Attack site (Police Line Mosque, Peshawar) inside larger high-security compound[1]


Event: A suicide attack on a Sunni mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, at 1330 local time on January 30, 2023, killed 59 people and wounded over 150.[2] The mosque attack occurred within a walled compound where the Peshawar Police Headquarters and provincial government buildings are situated, and most casualties were police officers. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Sarbakaf Mohmand claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter. A TTP spokesperson has distanced the group from the attack, claiming it is not policy to target religious sites and they could take punitive action against culprits. Militant attacks have increased in Pakistan since the end of the TTP-government ceasefire in November 2022. Recent TTP attacks have targeted intelligence officers, including the counterterrorism director of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).[3]


Significance:

Police, military, and government buildings in major cities such as Islamabad and Lahore will almost certainly be on high alert for further targeting in the short-to-mid term. TTP’s recent targeting of law enforcement, military intelligence, and government officials very likely displays a shift in tactics since the ceasefire ended. TTP will almost certainly continue using IEDs to attack these targets since an organization their size almost certainly possesses the technical knowledge and resources to manufacture IEDs quickly and cheaply. TTP’s persistent targeting of high-security compounds almost certainly raises serious security concerns about entrance ability and detection evasion. There is a roughly even chance that officials working within the government compounds are facilitating TTP militants’ compound entrance and preventing their detection by guards. The targeting of a mosque will likely amplify internal divisions within the TTP; however, there is a roughly even chance that significant fissures within them will limit operations. Their leadership will likely redetermine their targets and publicly discourage future attacks on holy sites. Their spokesperson’s public criticism and distancing from the attack was likely an attempt to protect their public image and retain supporters within the Sunni Muslim population. Planners of this attack will unlikely experience serious punishment, as the attack was successful in targeting police officers and yielding a high body count. The Afghan Taliban will likely provide refuge for TTP members fleeing persecution for involvement in attacks.


Recommendations

  • CTG recommends that high-risk sites, like mosques and government buildings, should increase security within the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. Previous attacks against mosques in Peshawar, including the March 2022 bombing of a Shia mosque, occurred despite being in a high-security compound. We recommend the establishment of security checkpoints outside the entrances of high-risk buildings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to deter and detect potential attacks.

  • We recommend law enforcement conduct an independent investigation into how the suicide bomber could invade a high-security compound without detection. It is recommended to conduct interviews with on-duty officers and profile the suicide bomber to analyze any connections within the compound. In addition, we recommend law enforcement examine any available footage from surveillance cameras in the area. If there is inadequate surveillance, we highly recommend installing cameras around high-risk targets like mosques and police headquarters. We recommend investigators identify the vulnerabilities exploited in this attack and share this information with similar regional compounds.

  • The ISI and Pakistani provincial law enforcement should continue to monitor purchases of parts commonly used to construct IEDs, tracing monetary records of relevant transactions where possible to detect individuals likely involved in IED construction and procurement. The ISI and the Pakistani military should expand their patrolling and monitoring capacity on the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands to prevent individuals involved in TTP-related terrorist activity from seeking refuge in Afghanistan.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com

 

[1]Police Line Mosque (Peshawar)” by Google Maps

[2] Pakistan mosque blast: Police targeted in attack that kills 59, BBC News, January 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-64451936

[3] Pakistan mosque suicide bomber kills 59, wounds over 150, AP News, January 2022, https://apnews.com/article/pakistan-peshawar-mosque-bombing-e632e0afcf948bc0502f5dfbd19359c1

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