Lahore bombing: what is Jamaat-ul-Ahrar?

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Saturday, 02 April 2016


By Talat Farooq

The Easter Sunday suicide attack on Gulshan-e-Iqbal amusement park in Lahore, Pakistan has claimed more than 70 lives. A rescue services spokeswoman confirmed that at least 29 children, seven women and 34 men were killed and more than 300 were wounded. On the fateful day, the popular resort was crowded with people marking Easter.

Pakistan is in a state of shock and dismay as eye witnesses on television screens recalled scattered body parts and pools of blood across the park, and hospital officials tweeted calls for blood donations.

Jamaat-ul Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack. Ahsanullah Ahsan, the spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said the group had targeted Christians celebrating Easter, although the police are still investigating the claim. Warning Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that “we have entered Lahore”, the capital of the Punjab province and the political power base of Sharif, the militant group threatened further attacks.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has so far launched several attacks on Pakistani civilians and security forces in recent months in an apparent attempt to boost its profile among Pakistan’s increasingly fractured militants, who since June 2014 have been at the receiving end of a fully-fledged military operation in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). So far, the military has killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants in the operation.

This has eased militant violence to some extent but certain groups, such as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, retain the ability to launch devastating attacks. In March 2015, the group claimed responsibility for two suicide attacks on Christian churches in Youhanabad, Lahore, that killed at least 15 people. The Easter Sunday bombing is the fifth attack by the group since December 2015.

Omar Khorasani is the head of Jamaat-ul Ahrar and former TTP leader of the Mohmand Agency chapter. He established the splinter group in August-September 2014 after he was ousted by the incumbent TTP chief, Mullah Fazlullah, following internal differences.

Jamaat claims to be fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan. It is likely to have some support in Mohmand, and the other FATA agencies: Bajaur, Khyber and Aurakzai. Some media outlets recently reported the group’s allegiance to Islamic State (IS) but there is no evidence of any active involvement at present.

The latest attack was the deadliest since the December 2014 massacre of 134 children at the Army Public School in Peshawar by the Pakistan Taliban. This attack prompted Pakistan’s civil-military leadership to resolve to take on the terrorists and their facilitators, not only in the tribal areas but also within Pakistani cities.

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