Thursday May 23, 2024

Was attack on Japanese in Karachi based on misunderstanding?

The lack of proper reconnaissance might have led the terrorists to mistakenly target the Japanese individuals

By Faraz Khan
April 20, 2024
View of the site while security officials are cordoned off the site for inspection and rescue operation after a suicide blast at the Landhi area in Karachi on April 19, 2024. — PPI
View of the site while security officials are cordoned off the site for inspection and rescue operation after a suicide blast at the Landhi area in Karachi on April 19, 2024. — PPI

Considering the history of terrorist activities in Karachi, counter-terrorism experts suspect that the attack on the Japanese nationals occurred due to a misunderstanding and improper planning on the part of the terrorists.

The lack of proper reconnaissance and the rush to execute the attack might have led the terrorists to mistakenly target the Japanese individuals, assuming they were Chinese.

Every terrorist outfit operates with its own motives when targeting foreigners. For instance, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) aims to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is why they try to target Chinese individuals.

Similarly, in the past, Jihadi elements have targeted French engineers or Americans in Karachi. However, in the case of the Japanese, there seems to be no history or motive behind the attack. “Circumstantial evidence, history and motive all indicate that this attack was carried out based on a misunderstanding. And there were no such threat alerts that warned of targeting the Japanese either,” says Raja Umer Khattab, a senior counter-terrorism officer of the Sindh police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) while talking to The News.

He said that the reluctance of any group to claim responsibility for the attack could be because it ultimately resulted in their own losses, as the attack was unsuccessful. Additionally, internal rifts within the Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella organisation of four different armed groups from Balochistan and Sindh, may also be a reason why they had not claimed the responsibility for the attack so far, the expert remarked.

Historically, there have been no recorded instances of terrorists specifically targeting Japanese individuals in Karachi. Instead, Chinese nationals have been consistently targeted in various forms, including the attacks on the Chinese consulate and Chinese centre at the University of Karachi.

In recent years, especially after operations such as Zarb-e-Azb, Raddul Fassad and the Karachi operation against Taliban and other militant outfits, Karachi has seen a rise in nationalist sentiment, particularly from parties in Sindh and Balochistan. Groups like the BLA and the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) have been active with the collaboration of various separatist groups under the umbrella organization BRAS.

Their joint ventures in Karachi have increased significantly. While the SRA has mainly been involved in target killings and railway track sabotage, the BLA has expanded its activities to suicide bombings in Karachi. Over the past few years, more than two dozen terrorist incidents have been attributed to organisations affiliated with BRAS, with Chinese nationals and law enforcement agencies being the primary targets.

Experts believe that there is a high probability of a misunderstanding regarding the attack on the Japanese individuals in Landhi. They suggest that the terrorists may have targeted the Japanese vehicle mistakenly, assuming it belonged to Chinese nationals. “Visually, Chinese and Japanese individuals may appear similar, especially when their vehicles are sealed, making it difficult to identify them accurately,” Khattab explained. He also suggested that the reconnaissance work might not have been conducted properly, as terrorists likely assumed the foreigners were Chinese and targeted them based on this assumption.

According to Khattab, the attack appeared to have been carried out impulsively without proper planning, indicating it may have been a panic attack. He mentioned that the sudden appearance of the Hi-Ace van followed by the detonation in the CCTV footage suggested a rushed and unplanned attack.

Khattab speculated that the suicide bomber might have failed to achieve the intended impact due to the impulsive nature of the attack. Additionally, internal rifts within BRAS may have contributed to the lack of a claim for the attack thus far. Khattab was of the view that the BLA's suicide bombers often successfully achieved their targets in Balochistan; however, when they came to Karachi, they failed to achieve their targets. “It is evident that they feel more comfortable in their hometown, but it is not the same in Karachi, which is why the BLA's suicide bombers are facing failures,” he said.