MW Weekly: Assassination Attempt on Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan; Al-Shabaab Bombings in Mogadishu; Islamic State Claims Killing Tens of Al-Qaeda Fighters in Mali
Ex-Pakistan Prime Minister Targeted in Assassination Attempt
On November 3, an individual attempted to assassinate Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Wazirabad in Punjab province. Khan suffered injuries to the leg after a gunman with what was apparently a Tokarev pistol opened fire on a vehicle carrying him. One member of his party was killed and seven others were injured. The shooter was detained, and he said that he wanted to kill Khan because Khan had “misled” people. Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), has alleged that this was an assassination attempt by the “establishment”, which refers to the powerful military.
There has been a history of very violent politics in Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in a suicide bombing in 2007, which was linked to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and, according to some accusations, the establishment.
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Violent protests broke out across the country following the alleged assassination attempt. The attack happened during a protest march – PTI and Khan last week started a long march to Islamabad, to pressure the government into calling early general elections (they are scheduled for next year). In April, Khan was removed as Prime Minister in a no-confidence vote, which he alleges was part of a foreign conspiracy. The coalition government that came in, which include parties that had lost to PTI in the 2018 general elections, subsequently leveled several cases against Khan or PTI. These were viewed as politically motivated, by Khan’s supporters. Although, some charges seem legitimate. Khan has also been criticized for reaching out to terror groups; his government started the apparently-failing-or-failed negotiations with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. In May, Khan attempted a long march to Islamabad, which was called off after violence broke out in the capital. While all this was happening, PTI won several by-elections and even took over the Punjab Assembly, upsetting the largest government party. For months, political tensions have been escalating over these issues, which have their underpinnings from Khan’s tenure as Prime Minister, if not longer.
The PTI’s long march is continuing right now, as are protests in major cities. There is violence and unrest, which could escalate further. The attempt to kill Khan has raised his profile (he’s already being called a martyr) and mobilized more of his supporters. The long march could intensify, and there has been a history of these types of disruptive protests that can shut down the country. Even if there are attempts to de-escalate, or if the march is called off (for example if an election date is announced), the tensions will ensure that stability is likely to only be temporary. As it stands, PTI looks like it could win upcoming elections, based on the recent victories and the ineffectiveness of the current government in addressing economic issues (that arguably PTI helped manifest). But the establishment, the political dynasties, and the elite of Pakistan will try to prevent a PTI victory. PTI will not accept a loss, legitimate or not, and there is no easy resolution in sight. The establishment will try to curb potentially rising sentiments against it, and this could cause more polarization and political violence. As this continues, Pakistan’s governance and security challenges will likely grow.
- Analysis by Uday B
Al-Shabaab Targets Mogadishu With Deadly Bombings
On November 29, the Al-Qaeda branch Al-Shabaab set off two car bombs in Somalia’s capital city that reportedly killed at least 100 people and injured 300 others. The explosions took place minutes apart and gunfire was heard as Somalia’s education ministry was targeted.
Al-Shabaab claimed the attack through its “Press Office” and published photos of smoke rising above the city through its Shahada News Agency.
Due to the high casualty count, neighboring Djibouti sent a team of doctors and a shipment of medical supplies to assist with the emergency response.
The attacks come as Somalia’s government, in conjunction with armed clans and with counter-terrorism support from the United States, continues the offensive launched against Al-Shabaab in August. The government claims 100 jihadists were killed during battles in the villages of Garas Magan and El Hareeri on Thursday.
However, despite being under pressure from its adversaries, the group continues to target the nation’s capital. On Saturday, November 5, an Al-Shabaab suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a military camp in Mogadishu, killing at least five people and injuring over 10 others.
Al-Shabaab’s official media organ claimed the attack and gave a much higher casualty count, saying its “fighter executed a martyrdom operation at the General Daghaban Base, a training facility in the capital, Mogadishu, where 400 Somali Special Forces were exercising. It resulted in killing 105 of them and wounding many times that number.”
Islamic State Claims Large-Scale Killing of Al-Qaeda Fighters
This past week, the Islamic State’s official media claimed a very notable attack with a strikingly high body count against Al-Qaeda fighters in North Africa.
The Islamic State’s Sahel Province claims they eliminated 40 Al-Qaeda members in northeastern Mali a few days ago. The group says they killed the militants after Al-Qaeda fighters massacred Muslims in nearby towns.
The Islamic State branch under the “Sahel Province” title emerged in late March 2023. The network was previously under the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel (ISGS), which was part of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The attack took place in the town of Aghzaraghin, in Menaka, and, according to the statement published by Amaq News Agency, the killings occurred following clashes between the two jihadist groups, involving a variety of weapons.
IS claims that, in addition to the 40 al-Qaeda members allegedly killed, five vehicles were burned and nine other vehicles were seized along with a cache of weapons and ammunition.
- by Guillermo Calderón López
Conflict Photos of the Week