Suicide attack in Dagestan

Around 30 people were injured late on Friday in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala. A male suicide attacker approached a police cordon close to a house where security forces had earlier had a firefight with suspected militants. Around 20 of the wounded were police officers; reportedly the bomber:

“attempted to break through a police cordon, but he was stopped by a policeman and set off the bomb”.

Defection

An interesting little story from AFP, about ‘Hameed’, a 25-year-old Afghan ‘reformed’ suicide bomber. He was apparently recruited by his uncle, a member of the Taliban, and was trained to assassinate the Chief of Police in Wardak province. The details of the training he received are pretty familiar. He was sent to a madrassa near Peshawar and

“soon after I arrived that I was told for the first time that I was going to be trained for a suicide bombing mission. I was assigned to attack the Wardak police chief, General Abdul Yameen Muzafaruddin”. He and about 15 other Afghans were trained in how to put on suicide vests, how to choose the target and how to stay calm.

But Hameen had a change of heart and decided not to become a bomber, contacted his other uncle who was a police commander (family get-togethers must be interesting) who extracted him and presented Hameen to his intended target. Hameen recited the plan and handed over his explosives vest.

The former bomber is now a police officer working for the man he was trained to assassinate. Quite the turnaround, but I’d not like to be sitting next to him in the patrol car. This is the first instance I’ve come across of a failed suicide attacker being turned in such a way – if anyone has other examples I’d be very interested to hear about them.

Attacks in Moscow

Moscow Metro Map

Moscow’s Chief of Police has reportedly said he believes this morning’s two explosions on the Moscow metro system were caused by suicide attackers detonating devices. Reports so far indicate that 37 people were killed. The Times is reporting that a senior Russian official has stated that the explosions were caused by two female suicide attackers.

The first attack occurred during Monday morning rush hour at 0750 local time in the Lubyanka railway station, killing 19 people both on the platform and on an incoming train reports the NYT. This might imply that the attacker was on the platform, but its likely too early to say anything for certain. Forty minutes later a second explosion occurred inside the second carriage of a train in the Park Kultury station, killing 14. Both stations are on the Red (Sokolnicheskaya) subway line.

Of course this is not the first time the Moscow underground system has been targeted. In February 2004 a male attacker, detonated a device on the metro’s Green line, killing 41 and injuring 120. Later in August 2004 a female attacker apparently panicked and prematurely detonated herself outside another metro station, killing ten people including her handler.

It seems likely that these attacks will prove to the work of Chechen or Ingush militants. As I noted previously (here, here and here), in Autumn 2009 there was a spate of new suicide attacks against Russian targets in Ingushetia, most of which were claimed by the Riyad-us-Saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous) Martyrs’ Brigade. The use of female attackers, if true, is certainly consistent with Chechen militants’ modus operandi for suicide operations.

It would appear that, if the same group is responsible, they have shifted their focus away from striking targets on their own ground to hitting the Russian capital. Whether they have the capacity to mount a campaign in Moscow remains to be seen.

LTTE Assault on Colombo International Airport

Aftermath of assault

Aftermath of assault

On 24 July 2001, 14 members of the LTTE’s Black Tiger suicide commando unit assaulted Sri Lanka’s main military and civil airports. The heavily guarded military side was struck first. The attackers initially gained access to the airbase via a gap in the perimeter fencing which was used by air force personnel for visiting women in the neighbouring commercial manufacturing district.[1] This movement was timed to coincide with a nationwide power-cut between 21:45 and 23:15, aimed at reducing electricity consumption.[2] The assault team proceeded to cut holes in the fencing surrounding the aircraft parking area and hangars and placed explosives on three electricity transformers, which were detonated at around 03:15, plunging the base into darkness again.

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Attack in Iran

The BBC is reporting that several members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have been killed in a suicide attack on a meeting with tribal leaders. The targets appear to have been senior officers:

The deputy commander of the Guard’s ground force, General Noor Ali Shooshtari, and the Guard’s chief provincial commander, Rajab Ali Mohammadzadeh, were among the dead, Irna state news agency reported.

The attack took place in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan and the Iranians seem to be blaming it on Sunni militant group Jundallah which has a track record for attacking IRG targets.

This is not the first time a suicide attack has been used in Iran. In December 2008 a VBIED was used to attack a security base in Saravan, killing four and wounding 12.

There was also a purported attack in May 2008, at a mosque in Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchistan. At the time, I have to admit I was skeptical, wondering if it was staged as a pretext for cracking down on opposition figures, but with hindsight perhaps not. Iran might be facing the development of a suicide attack campaign.

Attacks in Pakistan, Iraq

Following on from yesterday’s assaults in Lahore and Kohat, there was another suicide VBIED attack on a police investigation agency building in Peshawar. Eleven were killed and 15 injured, including three police officers.

Initially it was reported that the attacker might have been a woman on a motorcycle.  However, police have apparently now retracted this claim and think the woman may have been an innocent bystander.

Police now believe a woman seen near the scene on a motorcycle was an innocent victim and had been a passenger on a motorcycle travelling behind the car bomb, reports the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad.

This would have been significant as it is virtually unheard of for women to mount suicide attacks in the region. The only such case I am aware of was in December 2007 when a woman tried to attack a military checkpoint in Peshawar.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, there was an attack in Tal Afar, near Mosul. A bomber detonated himself in a Sunni mosque. Apparently the atacker first shot the mosque’s imam and then blew himself up, killing eight and wounding 30. I suspect this will turn out to be another AQ in Iraq hit on someone who was opposing them locally. There appears to be a tendency for these attacks to occur during Friday prayers – presumably because it represents a fixed point in time and space when they can be sure the target will be present. I wonder if there is a religious element also?

Suicide Assaults in Pakistan

A Pakistani bomb disposal squad member removes a suicide jacket from the body of an attacker in Lahore (AFP)

A Pakistani bomb disposal squad member removes a suicide jacket from the body of an attacker in Lahore (AFP)

It would appear that the Pakistani Taliban are attempting to forestall a much anticipated Pakistani military offensive by pre-empting with one of their own. Three security buildings have been attacked in Lahore – the Federal Investigation Agency offices and two police training facilities. There has also been a suicide VBIED attack on a police station in Kohat (scene of a suicide attack on 18 September).

Four gunmen are reported to have attacked the FIA building, killing at least three in addition to the attackers. At least one of the assaulters had a suicide vest. The same building was hit by a suicide attack in March 2008.

At the Manawan police academy, three attackers are said to have detonated suicide vests, killing at least six police personnel. The same building was struck in March earlier this year in a similar assault.

The third target in Lahore was the Bedia police training complex, which was attacked by a team of at least eight gunmen – it appears fighting is still ongoing at time of writing.

The SVBIED in Kohat apparently struck the wall of the police station, causing both police and civilian casualties.

The use of suicide-vest wearing assault teams appears to be a growing tactic. We’ve seen repeated instances of this approach recently in Afghanistan, with attacks on government buildings and security stations in Kabul and wider afield. The team that attacked the Pakistani GHQ over the weekend was also apparently wearing suicide vests. It is interesting that the attacks in Pakistan appear to be more successful than those in Afghanistan, where the attackers are frequently killed before they have a chance to inflict significant casualties. This either suggests that Pakistani Taliban’s operatives are considerably more effective and better trained, or that the Pakistani security forces are less capable than their Afghan and ISAF counterparts – especially given that two of the sites attacked today have been struck quite recently. Perhaps its a combination of both.

Its also worth noting that the TTP have been able to coordinate three different attack teams against three separate ‘hard’ targets across Lahore in near-simultaneous attacks, an indication of a pretty sophisticated planning capability, not to mention the men and materiel requirements.