GP Insights

GP Insights # 226, 19 January 2020

Pakistan: Suicide attack in a Quetta mosque claims 15 lives
Rini Babu

In the news
On 10 January, a suicide bomber carried out an attack in Quetta at a mosque during the prayers that killed fifteen people and twenty more were seriously injured. The attack was the second such incident of terrorism in the week. The previous attack was in a market area in Quetta which killed two people and more than fourteen were wounded.

Issues at large
The bomb attack killed an Imam and the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Amanullah along with thirteen other civilians who assembled for the evening prayer. Three days ago, another bomb exploded targeting the security personnel vehicle in a market area in Quetta. In May and August 2019, the two bomb blasts in Quetta had taken the lives of six civilians, leaving many others injured. 

Initial reports stated that the slain officer was the target of the latest attack. According to earlier reports, in December, unidentified gunmen killed the DSP's son in Quetta and that could have been the reason behind such an assumption in the initial stage of the mosque attack. However, later the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing and their target was Afghan Taliban.

Despite serious crackdown on terror elements in various other parts of Pakistan, Quetta has been a constant victim of various deadly attacks. Quetta, bordering Iran and Afghanistan is the capital of the mineral-rich province, Balochistan. The province is home to a secessionist group, the Balochistan Liberation Army, who have waged low-level insurgencies for years. 

The secessionists' demands include more autonomy and a greater share in the region's natural resources. The region also has a strong presence of Islamist militant groups which include the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State. The Taliban and the IS have battled each other for control of territory in Afghanistan, and the recent attack at a mosque was carried out by the IS suicide bomber to target an Afghan Taliban Seminary as per their claims. The Taliban, however, has denied the presence of any of its members at the mosque during the explosion. These secessionist and militant elements have made Quetta the site of terror acts and the mosque attack is just the latest among them. 

In perspective
Balochistan is important for its rich natural resources and also is key to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of Beijing's Belt Road Initiative (BRI). 
CPEC connects China's largest province, Xinjiang with Pakistan's Gwadar port in Balochistan. The frequent attacks in its capital and the instability in Balochistan due to the secessionist and radical groups are raising serious security concerns over the projects. 

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