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n one of Pakistan's deadliest attacks in recent years, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a packed mosque Friday, killing at least 50 worshipers and injuring more than 100 in Pakistan’s tribal belt of Khyber.
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Around 400 tribesmen were at the main Madina Mosque in Jamrod performing Friday prayers when the bomber detonated his bomb. The explosion caused the roof of the mosque to collapse, burying many of the worshipers.
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“I was offering prayers when the blast hit us. I fell unconscious and when regained consciousness I could only see clouds of smoke, dead and injured around me," says Hashmat Ullah Kooki Khel, a witness the Monitor reached by phone.
Most of the victims belong to THE Kookikhel tribe that is largely considered to pro-government and anti-Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban has not claimed responsibility but officials have blamed the militants for the bombing.
“This is [a] cowardly attack by Taliban and the attackers cannot be Muslims to kill innocent worshipers in the holy month of Ramadan,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of Khyber Pakhtoon Khawa province, told reporters. During the month-long holiday, Muslims all over the world observe fasting and offer special prayers.
“They are weakened and the operations by security forces have broken their backbone, so it could be [a] revenge tactic,” Mr. Hussain said.
The Khyber region has great strategic importance as it borders Afghanistan and is a gateway for NATO supplies to US-led forces in Afghanistan.
The area is known as being a hotbed of militants from Ansar-ul-Islam and Lashkar-e-Islam. Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) is headed by militant commander Manghal Bagh, while its rival Ansar-ul-Islam operates under Qazi Mohib. Both groups are fighting against Pakistani forces in Khyber.
The rivals have a long history of fighting, which has claimed hundreds of lives. Pakistan’s military launched a crackdown in 2009 to clear the region of militants.
In the past, Taliban militants and their allied groups have attacked at mosques and assemblies of tribesmen, known as jirgas, attended by anti-Taliban militias in Pakistan’s northwest.
Last year, the Taliban carried out twin suicide attacks in the village of Darra Adam Khel, where local tribesmen were resisting Taliban influence. More than 60 people were killed in that attack.
About 150,000 Pakistani troops have been deployed in the semiautonomous mountainous tribal belt and have been fighting Al Qaeda and Taliban militants along Afghanistan border. In retaliation, the Taliban have carried out deadly attacks in several cities across Pakistan.
Some months ago U.S. administration awarded “Legion of Merit” to Admiral Noman Bashir, people astonished that what kind of links Pakistan Navy has with war of terror, because Pakistan’s areas chosen by U.S. for operational purposes like Swat, Malakand and FATA or outside Pakistan like Afghanistan have no links with sea.
Most people are not aware of the fact that Pakistan Navy is fighting U.S. war of terror like Pakistan army and Pakistan air force devotedly and its mercenaries services are mostly outside boundaries of Pakistan.
According to Associated Press dated: Jan 04, 2011 the Air Chief Marshall Rao Qamar Suleman addressing the 94th officers commissioning parade held at Pakistan Naval Academy (PNA) on Monday said “The geo-political situation has undergone radical changes especially over the past few years. Pakistan today stands committed in the war against terrorism”. He commended participation of Pakistan Navy in Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan (CMCP). He said that the opportunity to command Combined Task Force -150 four times by PN is a testimony of their professional excellence. Pakistan Navy has been entrusted with the onerous command of Combined Task Force 151 in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin to deter and disrupt piracy for the benefit of all nations.
What is Combined Task Force 150 & 151?
The Combined Task Force 150 was established under doctrine of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, including naval forces from U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The major assignments to task force are together with maritime security operations in the Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean.
In 2004 the US Defence approved seven P-3C Orion aircrafts with the cost of round US $ one billion, two of these were delivered in April 2010, total current strength was between 5-7, out of two destroyed in yesterday’s terrorist attack. Siege of Iranian navy is also an unwritten assignment
Following few media reports confirms that Pakistan Navy was under control of Fifth U.S. fleet stationed at Bahrain.
July 15, 2007: Pakistan Navy to take charge of Combined Task Force 150 in Gulf. This would be for the second time that Pakistan would get the command of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) of the Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan on Aug 1 for four months.
While two other units handle the Gulf, CTF-150s 15 vessels also patrol an area that includes the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
November 04, 2011: Admiral Noman Bashir, was the chief guest on the occasion. “Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan and CTF-151 is a step towards regional and global security”. The Naval Chief said that Pakistan is committed to root out terrorism from the country.
Earlier, Commander Pakistan Fleet Vice Admiral Abbas Raza while giving a detailed account of fleet activities apprised that during 2010, PN ships conducted exercises with various navies including France, USA, UK, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.
BBC: Personnel from a Plymouth-based Royal Navy warship have been training with the Pakistan Navy. HMS Cornwall and the Pakistan warship PNS Shahjahan met in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea. HMS Cornwall is involved in sea security throughout the Middle East, and crews from both warships exchanged skills when they met.
The speakers added that Pakistan was the only regional country to have been entrusted with the command of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF) 151 in addition to that of CTF 150. The overall goal was to ensure security of sea lanes and the overall maritime commons for safe use by all nations, they said.
Pakistan Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Abbas Raza said that Pakistan Navy’s initiative of multinational exercise Aman-11 was an effort that would surely improve response, tactics and procedures to enhance interoperability in joint operating environment. The exercise was focused on combating and countering all illegal activities, particularly in North Arabian Sea which was very critical to future energy security and served as lifeline of world energy economies, he added.
Admiral Abbas said that crime and terrorism were not confined to specific boundaries rather their effects were felt all over the world. This also has the potential to create an impact on maritime trade of the region and of the world. He said that use of sea routes by terrorists, human trafficking, smuggling and piracy were major concerns