Lashkar-e-Jhangvi: inciting sectarianism in Afghanistan?

Posted on: December 9, 2011


ISLAMABAD: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the terror group blamed for deadly attacks on Shias in Afghanistan this week, has forged ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in a murderous campaign to wage sectarian warfare. 59 died in two terrorist attacks.

Since its inception in 1996 by a religious extremist, the faction has claimed to have killed thousands of Shias in bombings and shootings acrossPakistan.

It takes its name from Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founder of terror group Sipah-e-Sahaba from which leader Riaz Basra broke, and preaches indiscriminate violence against Shias.

A suicide attack tore through a crowd of worshippers inKabulon Tuesday as they marked the holy day of Ashura, killing 55 people, as a second blast in the northern city ofMazar-i-Sharifleft four more dead.

There has been no confirmation of a purported claim from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) splinter al-Alami, butKabulblamed the group for Tuesday’s massacre, unprecedented in targeting such an important religious holiday inAfghanistan.

LeJ is not thought to have struck inAfghanistanbefore.

“We will pursue this issue withPakistanand its government very seriously,” said Afghan President Hamid Karzai, threatening to ratchet up tensions withIslamabadwhich are already frayed over accusations of sponsoring violence.

Afghan officials say the motive was to inflame a 10-year Taliban insurgency and drastically increase violence by importingPakistanand Iraq-style sectarian conflict as Nato combat troops prepare to leave by the end of 2014.

A substantial rise in sectarian unrest could also threaten to whip up proxy wars. The Taliban denied involvement, but in a cauldron of violence where religious terror groups are interlinked and have overlapping allegiances, experts say it would have been impossible for the LeJ killers to have acted alone.

As with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terror groups like LeJ was born from the ashes of the 1980;s Afghan war against the Soviet Union supported by Zia-ul-Haq an ex President of Pakistan.

The group leaders were veterans of that conflict and its ranks populated by graduates of madrasas packed off to terror training camps in the mountains on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

It developed close ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which ruled inKabulfrom 1996 until the 2001 US-led invasion.

Pakistanformally banned the group in 2001 and there have been numerous crack downs with arrests and killings of known Jhangvi operatives over the last 20 years.

Islamabadhas askedAfghanistanto provide proof that Jhangvi militants were responsible for Tuesday’s attack. One official said the bomber was a Pakistani from Kurram, part ofPakistan’s tribal region withAfghanistan, and a specific flashpoint for sectarian unrest.

But as long as doubts persist over the al-Alami claim, it remains unclear how exactly the group could have carried out the attack.

Militancy expert Rahimullah Yusufzai also doubted the claim, saying that the splinter group’s capacity is very limited even inPakistan, which has seen a recent decline in attacks linked to its own bloody Taliban insurgency.

“There is one possibility that this group may have support of Al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-TalibanPakistan or some of the rogue elements insideAfghanistan,” Yusufzai.

Jhangvi’s founderBasrahas been dead for a number of years. Reports differ on whether he was killed in an explosion or a shootout with security forces.

A senior Pakistani security official said LeJ and other extremist groups are “hand in glove with the Taliban”.

“But they cannot carry out such an attack on their own. This would have surely been a Taliban-connected operation,” he told AFP.

“Al-Alami are known as Punjabi Taliban, who were involved in the attack on (army) GHQ (general headquarters) two years ago,” he added. Lashkare Jhangvi has no Islamic understandings of Holy Qur’an and Shariah law. Most of them are uneducated and criminal ones or having primary education from different low level Madras’s financially supported by Saudi Arabia.

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