UPDATE: The map has been updated with news of a bomb blast at a shrine in Islamabad on June 20.
Use the arrows on the text slide below to go through the map points. [Click here to view the map in a separate browser window.] Read the rest of the post below the map.
When the F-8 district courts were attacked in March 2014, I put together a timeline to go with the story I was writing for the next day’s paper. With the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, there is a growing concern among Islamabad residents about retaliatory attacks by terrorist groups targeted in North Waziristan. Immediately after the launch of the military operation, the Taliban also issued a threat in which they warned to attack Lahore and Islamabad. Given these developments, I felt the need to revisit the timeline and update it with bomb blasts that hit Islamabad between March and June.
I used StoryMapJS, a free tool by North Western University’s Knight Lab, to plot the data from the timeline on to a map of Islamabad I exported from Google Earth. The “cartography” feature of StoryMapJS allowed me to connect the data points chronologically in a timeline-like structure.
The data for the timeline/map is derived from South Asia Terrorism Portal and news reports, some of which I also linked to in the individual events in the timeline.
The most brutal period for Islamabad in terms of the frequency of suicide bombings is between 2007 and 2009. These are the years of the Lal Masjid siege (2007), formation of Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (also 2007), operation Rah-e Haq in Swat (the first phase began in 2007 and the second phase started in 2008) and subsequent military operations in Swat and South Waziristan (2009). The attacks in Islamabad during this time were mostly retaliatory and targeted law-enforcement agencies. Some exceptions include the Danish embassy attack for which al-Qaeda claimed responsibility and an attack on the lawyers’ movement rally. The majority of militant attacks listed in the map above happened close to the Red Zone, which houses some of the most high-profile and sensitive government buildings in Islamabad.
Between Dec 2009 and Dec 2013, there was only one major suicide attack in the capital in four years. In 2013, two attempted attacks were thwarted by police and private security guards. In 2014, however, there have already been five bomb blasts in the first six months, all of which have exposed the vulnerability of Islamabad to militant attacks.
Two of these 2014 attacks – the F-8 district courts attack and the vegetable market blast – were extremely deadly and brazen and poorly dealt with by police. Rangers had already started Rapid Response Force patrolling jointly with police personnel towards the end of May. There are also reports that two companies of Army’s 111 brigade have been called in to secure the Red Zone. The law-enforcement agencies were unable to stop a low-intensity bomb blast at a shrine, some 15 kilometres southeast of urban Islamabad, on June 20. Let’s hope they are able to intercept and thwart any other such incidents in the future.