Islamic State, Jamaatul Ahrar claim responsibility of Quetta blast
QUETTA – The Islamic State and a Taliban faction, Jamaatul Ahrar, have claimed responsibility of the Quetta blast that claimed 74 lives.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency reported that the Middle East-based movement was behind the atrocity. “A martyr from the Islamic State detonated his explosive belt at a gathering of Justice Ministry employees and Pakistani policemen in Quetta,” Amaq said.
Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a faction of the Islamist militant Pakistani Taliban group, earlier said it had carried out the attack. The movement at one time swore fealty to Islamic State’s Middle East leadership, but later switched back to the Taliban.
“The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (TTP-JA) takes responsibility for this attack, and pledges to continue carrying out such attacks,” said spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan in a statement.
Only last week, Jamaat was added to the United States’ list of global terrorists, triggering sanctions.
It remains unclear what ties Jamaat retains to Islamic State, whose leadership is a rival to both the Taliban and al Qaeda over claims to represent the true Islamist Caliphate.
In September 2014, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar rejected the Pakistani Taliban during a leadership struggle and swore allegiance to Islamic State, also known as Daesh.
By March 2015, however, the group was again swearing loyalty to the main Pakistani Taliban umbrella leadership. The reason for its return to the fold remains murky, but Jamaat also never specifically disavowed Islamic State either.
In January, a suicide bomber killed 15 people outside a polio eradication center in an attack claimed by both the Pakistani Taliban and Jundullah, an Islamist militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East.
Monday’s attack was the deadliest in Pakistan since an Easter Day bombing ripped through a Lahore park, killing at least 72 people. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar also claimed responsibility for the bombing. –Reuters