Monday, August 8, 2016

Suicide bombing at a Pakistani hospital kills dozens of people.

Civilians help evacuate a man wounded in the blast. AP.

A suicide bombing targeting a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan has killed at least 64 people. AP. The attack was focused on a gathering of lawyers who were morning the death of one of their colleagues. Bilal Kasi, a prominent lawyer who was assassinated by an unknown gunman. The government claims that the two attacks were connected. In addition to the dozens of lawyers killed in the attack, two journalists were killed as well. No terror group has taken credit for the attack so far, but there are many suspects, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda and local Baluch separatists. 

My Comment:
Other sources have the death toll as high as 70, and given how these things usually go, the toll might end up being higher. This was a devastating two pronged attack, and despite myself I have to admire how they pulled it off. First they murdered someone knowing that his death would cause people to mourn at the hospital he was brought to. Then they sent a bomber to blow himself up knowing there would be dozens of potential victims gathered together. I expect others to see the success of this attack and try to emulate it, in Pakistan at least, if not the wider world. 

Unlike the fool in Belgium who thought the best way to conduct a terror attack was to rush and slash police officers, this attack shows a high level of sophistication and planning. That tells me that a major terrorist organization was behind it. I think that means we can rule out the local Baluch separatists, though it's possible. I would rule out ISIS as well since their presence in Pakistan is rather limited. They certainly would like to pull off such an attack, but I just don't think they have the infrastructure in Pakistan to do so. 

That leaves al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I would say that al-Qaeda is rather unlikely. They are a shadow of their former selves and the main survivors of their core organization in Pakistan and Afghanistan are broke and disorganized. They are capable of pulling off an attack like this, but I really think it's the last option. 

The Taliban have been very active in Pakistan and have pulled off some serious and deadly terror attacks in Pakistan. They have plenty of dedicated soldiers who would be more then willing to kill themselves for their cause. I don't know for sure that they are the ones, but I think they are the most likely to have pulled it off. 

I wonder why they chose these targets? Bilal Kasi seems like an odd target to me. All I have been able to discover is that he was the president of the local bar association. That's an important role, but you would think that the terrorists would target someone who spoke out against them or was more universally famous. Perhaps he was and my google-fu is week. It sure feels like I am missing something here. 

It does make sense to kill lawyers though. Lawyers, for all their faults, do provide critical services to the public at large. Not only do they deal with criminal and civil cases, they also function as advisers and help people when they need it. Killing dozens at once will greatly harm the civil and justice systems in Quetta. 

I am guessing that this story will largely fly under the radar for western audiences. While such an attack would get 24/7 coverage if it happened in the United States or Europe, it happened in Pakistan. To be brutally honest, everyone expects terrorism on this scale in Pakistan (and Iraq and Syria for that matter). The brutal murder of 70+ people probably won't get the coverage it deserves. 

As for Pakistan, I wonder if the tradition of public mourning sessions at hospitals will come to an end. This attack gives a good argument against doing it, especially if it follows a politically motivated assassination. Hell, any kind of public morning is probably more trouble then it is worth these days... 

I haven't said much about the fact that the attack happened at a hospital. I think it's pretty disgusting to attack a place where people are trying to get well. Killing people that are obviously helpless is evil, even though this attack focused on the crowd outside, not the patients. The only good news about it is that there were plenty of doctors around to help the injured. 

Sooner or later hospitals themselves might be targeted directly. Though I am not sure what the situation is in Pakistan, in the Western world, hospitals are mid-tier in terms of being a hard target. Very few people are consistently armed at hospitals, other then cops there for a call, but there is generally security and the people there are trained to respond to disasters. My hope is that we don't see any attacks against hospitals or their patients. I would say the same things about attacks mourners gathering to grieve, but I'm afraid that ship has sailed a long time ago. 

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