The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) offshoot Jamat-ul-Ahrar claimed credit for suicide bombings on two churches in Lahore, Pakistan. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the group’s spokesman, tweeted the claim on March 15 and stated that it had been carried out by the group’s “Aafia Siddique Brigade.”
“By using the name ‘Aafia Siddique Brigade,’ the group is making an appeal to the hearts and minds of local jihadist groups,” said SITE Director Rita Katz. “Siddique, a Pakistan-born woman sentenced to 86 years in prison by the US, is viewed by jihadists as a symbol for their movement and has also been appealed to by the Islamic State in past releases.”
“It is also very important to note,” Katz continued, “that while past attacks by the TTP were on Pakistani government and Shia targets, these attacks on the two Christian churches show the need by jihadist groups to continue performing attacks that garner support by other jihadi groups.”
The attacks came just three days after Jamat-ul-Ahrar announced a “coalition” with TTP and Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), a Pakistan-based jihadist group, to fight against the Pakistani government and military.
Katz: "Though the coalition was announced to be created as a way to combat Pakistani forces, it is also a response to the establishment of the Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan Province’ in the region."
“Though the coalition was announced to be created as a way to combat Pakistani forces,” Katz commented, “it is also a response to the establishment of the Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan Province’ in the region. Pakistani forces were always a threat to the members of this coalition, but the one thing that changed in recent months has been this new Islamic State front.”
“That being said,” Katz continued, “I stated in a recent article that following the establishment of the Khorasan Province, groups in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region would begin to compete with such attacks. These attacks on the churches are likely the beginning manifestations of this dangerous competition.”