August 29, 2008 | FDD’s Long War Journal

Pakistani forces thwart triple suicide bombing attack

Pakistani paramilitary forces from the Frontier Corps repelled a deadly Taliban suicide attack on a military camp near the Kohat Tunnel.

Three suicide vehicles were used in the attack, Geo TV reported. The first bomber attempted to breach the main gate of the complex but was stopped just outside the gate after troops opened fire on the truck, causing the vehicle to explode just outside the camp.

Casualties were sustained in the first explosion. Five civilians were killed and 37 Pakistani paramilitary troops were wounded. The chief of security for the tunnel was among those wounded.

The second suicide bomber detonated his explosives after hitting the camp wall. The third suicide bomber left his vehicle at the main gate and ran away. The Taliban also destroyed two bridges on the Indus Highway, severing traffic between Peshawar and points south.

The attack resembles past attempts by al Qaeda in Iraq on US and Iraqi military bases. An initial suicide bomber would be used to breach a wall or main gate, and the follow-on vehicles would attempt target key points inside the complex, such as headquarters or barracks to inflict maximum casualties.

The US and Iraqi military repelled several attacks of this nature over the past five years. The most notable attacks were against Camp Gannon in Husaybah on the Syrian border, an outpost at Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi police station and the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, and a combat outpost in Tarmiyah.

The Taliban targets the Kohat Tunnel

The Taliban likely had two goals for today's strike. First, the Taliban hoped to inflict mass casualties on Pakistani security forces. Second, the attack was likely part of a bid to retake control of the strategic tunnel, a vital link on the Indus Highway that connects Peshawar to the southern tribal agencies and settled districts.

The Pakistani military and the Taliban have fought intense battles in Orakzai and neighboring Kohat this year in an effort to maintain control of the strategic tunnel. Pitched battles were fought in the city of Darra Adam Khel and at the Kohat Tunnel in January.

The fighting began after Taliban forces hijacked a military convoy in Darra Adam Khel and seized weapons destined for a military operation in South Waziristan in late January. Clashes ensued as the Pakistani military moved forces into the region to battle the Taliban, but the military backed down and quickly formed a “peace jirga” to negotiate with the Taliban.

The Taliban responded by taking control of the Kohat Tunnel. The Taliban kidnapped more than 50 paramilitary troops from the Frontier Corps during the fighting at the Kohat Tunnel. Several soldiers and paramilitaries were beheaded and mutilated. The government retook the Kohat Tunnel after days of fierce fighting, but not before the Taliban damaged the tunnel during an attempt to destroy it.

On May 1, the Pakistani military pulled out from Darra Adam Khel. The Taliban immediately re-emerged and began levying taxes on vehicles traveling on the Indus Highway. The Pakistani Army, backed by tanks, rolled back into Darra Adam Khel on May 11, and fighting ensued. The fighting shut down the Indus Highway.

The Taliban campaign continues

Today's attack is the ninth major strike in Pakistan since Aug. 12. Taliban bombers have struck in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Wah, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, and Bannu, killing more than 165 Pakistanis and wounding more than 220, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal.

The Kohat attack is the latest in a series of strikes against Pakistani military facilities. The largest attack targeted the Pakistani Ordnance Facility in Wah, just west of Islamabad. More than 70 Pakistanis were killed and 100 were wounded. Yesterday, six policemen and three civilians were killed in an improvised explosive device attack in Bannu.

Three days ago, the Taliban reportedly lost 11 fighters during a company-sized assault on the Tiarza Fort and the Tiarza Bridge Checkpost just outside of Wana. Twelve Taliban and two soldiers were killed and seven were wounded during an ambush in a separate incident.

The Taliban also attempted to kill the senior US diplomat in Peshawar earlier this week.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups maintain secure bases in Pakistan's tribal areas and in some of the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. These groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

The Taliban has organized some of its fighters into military formations. Al Qaeda has reformed the notorious 055 Brigade, the Arab legion of al Qaeda fighters that was destroyed during the initial US assault in Afghanistan in late 2001. Additional al Qaeda brigades have been formed, intelligence officials informed The Long War Journal.

Foreign al Qaeda fighters have flocked to the Pakistani border regions. On July 23, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.