Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been briefed about the threat from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Jamaat ul-Ahrar), which carried out an attack on the Pakistani side of the Wagah border a few days ago, to target India, sources said. Security agencies are taking the threat “very seriously,” they added.
Three off-shoots of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — the Jundullah, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Jamaat ul-Ahrar) and Mehra Masud — claimed responsibility for the attack but the focus has been on the Jamaat ul-Ahrar faction, especially after tweets by the spokesperson of the group, Ehsanullah Ehsan (assumed name), said he would upload a video of the attacker “soon.”
In a telephone interview with Reuters , Ehsan denied speculation that the bomber in the Wagah attack had planned to hit targets on the Indian side.
“We have stated that our target was the [Pakistani] security forces and their installations in which we succeeded,” he told an Islamabad-based reporter.
Both Indian and Pakistani intelligence sources have discounted the theory that the deadly attack was aimed at India but officials told The Hindu that they were increasingly worried that it pointed to a new link with the international terror group al-Qaeda. Pakistani intelligence officials say they are surprised by the choice of the target at the extreme east of Punjab, even as security forces battle the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and splinter groups in Waziristan.
The attack comes six weeks after a video released by al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahri announced the start of a “South Asia wing.”
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Jamaat ul-Ahrar) was formed with tribal leaders of the Mohmand, Bajaur and Orakzai agencies, who split with the original group headed by Fazlullah after the Mehsud family leadership was killed in U.S drone strikes.
Ehsan was sacked by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan last year for “raising the danger of divisions between the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban,” after he made comments against the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar. Ehsan and other Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Jamaat ul-Ahrar) leaders like Tariq Ali, a former Pakistan Army doctor-turned-terrorist, has favoured a more international stage, in line with al-Qaeda’s strategy.
“We are now more than convinced that such groups aren’t just ideologically aligned but operationally aligned to al-Qaeda,” said an Indian official who follows the groups closely.