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PakistanThe Taliban

Killing of provincial minister highlights bombing threat to Pakistan.

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AOAV data shows the harm caused by IEDs in 2014.

The assassination of a Pakistani Provincial Minister in a double suicide attack over the weekend highlights the continuing impact of IEDs in the country.

Shuia Khanzada, a provincial Minister in Punjab, was killed while holding a political meeting at his home in Attock, some 50 miles away from the capital of Islamabad. Two suicide attackers simultaneously detonated their explosives, which were so powerful that they collapsed the house, killing the Minister and a further 18 others. A reported 17 others were injured in the explosion.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Taliban in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack. On Twitter, the group’s spokesperson stated that it was a revenge attack for the ‘martyrdom’ of Malik Ishaq, one of Pakistan’s most notorious militants, who was killed in a police shootout on 29 July.

The attack could have a negative impact on Pakistan’s anti-Taliban efforts, as Khanzada, a retired army colonel, was at the forefront of the country’s fight against militant and banned sectarian groups. He has been outspoken about the Taliban in the past, helping to establish an anti-terrorism department in Punjab province, and vocally supporting the government’s recent decision to reinstate the death penalty for terrorism cases. His death will be a loss to those acting against the Taliban, with his targeting feasibly leading others to be unwilling to speak out against the armed group for fear of further assassination attempts.

The Taliban and their affiliated groups have been active in Pakistan for a long time. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has carried out IED and suicide attacks in the country before, including an attack in November 2014 which killed more than 50 people and injured more than 100 who were watching a flag-lowering ceremony near the Pakistani and Indian border.

And Pakistan is no stranger to IED attacks, being the third most affected country in 2014. AOAV recorded 1,618 civilian casualties of IED attacks in the country last year in 167 different incidents. Aside from Iraq and Nigeria, Pakistan was the worst country in the world for such attacks. And between January and the end of July 2015, suicide IED attacks such as the bombing at the weekend have killed and injured 236 civilians.

This attack is typical of many explosive weapon incidents, in Pakistan and globally. The blast and fragmentation from the bombs killed not only Khanzada, the intended target, but also collapsed the house, killing at least another 18 people in the vicinity. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas commonly kills and injures people who were not the intended target. And even where IEDs are used to target armed actors, civilians are often killed or injured, either because of the large inherent blast effects of these bombs, or because they are deployed in populated areas without sufficient control.

AOAV has undertaken research into the impacts of IED attacks in Pakistan in our report, Anatomy of a Suicide Bombing, as well as producing an anti-suicide bomb video. AOAV’s work shows starkly that when suicide bombings, and other IED attacks, take place in populated areas like markets, homes or places of worship, they consistently cause severe and long-lasting harm to the wider population.

Sunday’s attack should serve as further evidence that the Pakistani government and states across the globe need to do more to prevent these bombings. Condemning them is not enough. Concrete measures controlling the transfer of materials used to make IEDs should be implemented to prevent armed groups’ access to explosives. Countries, working with religious and community leaders, non-governmental organisations and civil society, should take steps to further stigmatise the use of suicide bombs. And states should ensure that victims of these attacks have access to support, from health care to psychosocial.

To read more about AOAV’s work on IEDs and suicide attacks click here.