MS Risk Blog

ISIS leader death unconfirmed as group launches bus attack in Karachi

Posted on in Iraq, ISIS, Pakistan title_rule

On Wednesday, Iraq’s Defence Ministry reported that Abu Alaa al-Afari, second in command of Islamic State, had been killed in an air strike in country’s north. The Ministry’s website shows footage of what an air strike on the “Martyrs Mosque” in the village of al-Iyadhiya near Tel Afar. The ministry said Afari was killed in a coalition attack on a mosque, where he was meeting with other militants.

However US Central Command has vehemently denied that a coalition air strike had hit the mosque, and said it could not confirm any claims that the deputy commander had been killed.

The Iraqi government has previously announced the death of Islamic State militants who had not been killed. Recent reports suggested that IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi had been incapacitated by an air strike in the same region of Iraq. The Pentagon has also denied those reports.

In Turkey, foreign ministers of NATO nations met to examine how to fight Islamic State. The ministers met in Antalya discuss, among other things, instability in in Syria and Iraq, where IS controls broad swaths of territory. US Secretary of State John Kerry said his NATO counterparts wanted to see a clearer defense agreement with Gulf Arab states to fight terror ahead of a summit that President Barack Obama will host at Camp David on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a branch of Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a bus attack in Karachi, Pakistan on Tuesday. Men on motorbikes followed bus, which was carrying men, women, and children of a minority sect of Ismaili Muslims. The bikers fired on the bus with automatic weapons as it travelled through the city. When the bus stopped, gunmen forced their way on board and killed dozens of commuters at close range. The six gunmen killed 45 people and injured 13. It was the deadliest single sectarian attack in Pakistan since the suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in southern Shikarpur district killed 61 in January.

A survivor from the shootings said the gunmen began a systematic execution once on the bus. “They want to target us because we are not Muslims according to most people in Pakistan,” he said. Ismaili Muslims are part of an international community of Shia Muslims who follow the Aga Khan, a Europe-based spiritual leader and business tycoon. In Pakistan, many citizens hold to a strict interpretation of the Muslim faith, and consider Ismailis, Ahmedis, and other minority sects of Islam to be “un-Islamic”. To members of Islamic State or other Sunni-based terrorist groups, anyone who does not adhere to their strict and radical brand of Islam is considered heretical.

Both Islamic State and a Pakistani Taliban splinter group rushed to claim responsibility. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on Twitter accounts that described the Ismaili victims as “infidels”. Further, printed leaflets left near the scene of the attack also claimed it was the work of ISIS. The message said that the attackers were avenging, among other things, the “torture of Sunni women by the army” and the “killing of our fighters by the Karachi police”.

However, Jundullah, a Pakistani Taliban splinter group, also rushed to claim responsibility. A spokesman for the group said, “These killed people were Ismaili and we consider them [non-Muslim]. We had four attackers. In the coming days we will attack Ismailis, Shias and Christians.” Some Pakistani Taliban militants have pledged allegiance ISIS, however it is believed that the group’s presence in Pakistan is small.

Karachi is two years into an operation to target criminal gangs and terrorists in the city. The government of Sindh, the province of which Karachi is the capital, responded to the attacks by announcing the suspension of senior police officials and promising financial compensation for the families of victims.