– SUHASINI HAIDAR
Border Security Personnel keep vigil at the Attari- Wagah border. Photo: Special Arrangement
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Jamaat ul-Ahrar), the group that claimed responsibility for the suicide attack at a Pakistani check post near the Wagah border that killed 61 people, has threatened attacks on India next. In a telephone interview to agency Reuters, the spokesperson of the group Ehsanullah Ehsan (assumed name) said. “I have already conveyed it to Modi… that if our suicide bombers can carry out attacks
on this side of the border, they can easily do it on other side of the border in India,” he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“I told him that his hands are red with the blood of Kashmiri mujahideen (fighters) and innocent people of Gujarat for which he would have to pay the price.”
Ehsan was probably referring to an earlier message on his twitter account on Monday, which said, “You (Modi) are the killer of hundreds of Muslims. We wl (will) take the revenge of innocent people of Kashmir and Gugrat” (sic).” The message has since been deleted, but sources said PM Modi has been briefed about the threat since, and security agencies are taking the threat “very seriously”.
Three offshoots of the TTP — the Jundullah, TTP-JA, and Mehra Masud — claimed responsibility for the attack, but the focus has been on TTP-JA especially after Ehsan tweets claiming he would upload a video of the attacker ‘soon’.
In his telephone interview Ehsan denied speculation that the bomber in the Wagah attack had planned to hit targets on the Indian side. “We have stated that our target was the (Pakistani) security forces and their installations in which we succeeded,” he told a reporter based in Islamabad.
Both Indian and Pakistani intelligence sources have also discounted the theory that the deadly attack at the Wagah border was aimed at India, but officials told The Hindu they are increasingly worried that it points to a new link with international terror group al-Qaeda. Pakistani intelligence officials say they are surprised by the choice of the target at the extreme east of Punjab, even as security forces battle the TTP and splinter groups in Waziristan.
The attack comes six weeks after a video released by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri announced the start of a “South Asia wing”. The TTP-Jamaat Ul-Ahrar is a breakaway faction of the TTP formed with tribal leaders of the Mohmand, Bajaur and Orakzai agencies who split with the TTP headed by Fazlullah after the Mehsud family leadership was killed in U.S. drone strikes. Ehsan was sacked by the TTP last year for “raising the danger of divisions between the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban,” after he made comments against the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar.” Ehsan and other TTP (JA) leaders like Dr. Tariq Ali, a former Pakistan Army doctor-turned-terrorist have favoured a more international stage, in line with
Al-Qaeda’s strategy. “We are now more than convinced that such groups aren’t just ideologically aligned, but operationally aligned to al-Qaeda,” said an Indian official who follows the groups closely.
The TTP Jamaat ul Ahrar group is believed to have taken its name from the Ahrar-ul-Hind, a group that considers its goal to control the entire Indian subcontinent.
“The TTP focuses on Pakistan only, while we (TTP-JA) have a global agenda of jihad and therefore we have people from all over the world including the Arab and Western world for this mission,” Ehsan said.
“if our suicide bombers can carry out attacks on this side of the border, they can easily do it on other side of the border in India ”
— Ehsanullah Ehsan (@EhsanTTPJA) November 2, 2014