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Suicide Terrorism in Pakistan: al-Qaeda's Lal Masjid Plan In Motion

Suicide terrorism inside Pakistan spiked in 2007, particularly after the Pakistani raid on the pro-Taliban and pro-al-Qaeda Lal Masjid (the Red Mosque) in July. It is worth mentioning here that the Taliban (Afghanistan) were originally opposed generally to suicide Taliban attacks (though they supported al-Qaeda's employment of the same.) That changed after 2001 as al-Qaeda's influence grew considerably within and often over the Taliban, post-retreat into Pakistan. B. Raman, former head of a branch of Indian intelligence, takes a look at the trends of suicide terrorist atacks inside Pakistan at the South Asia Analysis Group.

There were 56 acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan during 2007, resulting in the death of 419 members of the security forces----the majority of them from the police and para-military forces--- and 217 civilians. The most important civilian killed was Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister. As against this, there were only six incidents in 2006 in which 46 members of the security forces and 91 civilians were killed.

2. Of the 56 incidents of 2007, there were only four during the first six months of the year. The remaining 52 took place after the Pakistani commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad between July 10 and 13, 2007, in which about 300 tribal girls studying in a madrasa attached to the mosque were allegedly killed.

To put the Lal Masjid raid reaction into proper perspective, one must understand it as a planned event. It was an event of which al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote in a letter to the brothers who ran Lal Masjid that "things are going according to plan." The plan was communicated in a letter found inside the Lal Masjid complex by Pakistani forces: Provoke a government siege for the purposes of creating martyrs through which the public - particularly fence-sitting or inactive (with AQ/Taliban) Pashtuns - would be whipped into a violent frenzied anger.

That anger manifested itself partly in retaliatory suicide bombings against the government and government forces, as well as increased recruiting for the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan.

The reaction was a part of al-Qaeda's plan to push its insurgency forward in Pakistan, but was not the single momentous launch point for such. This was noted in a ThreatsWatch Principal Analysis shortly after the siege began, x_Showdown or Showtime In Pakistan?_

In al-Qaeda's 'Death by a Thousand Cuts' insurgency strategy, the Lal Masjid event was a major cut, but still one of many rather than the cataclysmic death knell for Pakistan some had feared. As the suicide terrorism continues in Pakistan - well noted by B. Raman - Lal Masjid's impact is still felt.