On Thursday, an alleged Web posting by Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Danish embassy suicide attack that occurred on Monday, [see previous post]. According to the Associated Press today, “The statement said Monday’s attack was carried out to fulfill Osama bin Laden‘s promise to exact revenge for the reprinting in Danish newspapers of a cartoon of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.” The statement, posted on a website “frequented” by Islamist militants, reported CNN, also warned that “more attacks will follow if Denmark refuses to apologize for the cartoons.” It was reportedly signed by an Al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, although media outlets noted the authenticity of the statement has not been verified.
The Web posting confirmed suspicions that Al Qaeda-linked militants had perpetrated Monday’s attack, and that the bombing was linked to bin Laden’s call for revenge following the Danish cartoon controversy. On Wednesday, an editorial in the International Herald Tribune, entitled, “Pakistan’s Mounting Identity Crisis,” framed the recent bombing in Islamabad as “only the latest of several recent signs pointing to Pakistan as a nexus for terrorism and religious extremism.” The IHT editors added, “If the bombing in Pakistan’s capital can be traced back to Al Qaeda, as officials there seem to believe, it will only underscore Pakistan’s need to resolve a mounting identity crisis.” What exactly is this “identity crisis,” however? According to the editorial, there is an essential contradiction in Pakistan “between a law-based state and the regional sway of Islamist warlords.”
Although this point is perhaps debateable, Monday’s attack does raise questions about the government’s peace negotiations with Islamist militants. Although authorities have defended the talks, adding that they are not negotiating with “terrorists,” but with militants who are willing to put down their arms, what constitutes a success in this process? Yes, certain militants may uphold their end of the bargain, but what about the attacks that are still being perpetrated within the country’s borders? Success, in terms of negotiations with Islamist militants, is often measured quantitatively – that is, what is the change in the number of attacks? Has the rate of violence decreased? In Iraq, the U.S. military and Iraqi government negotiated with “reconcileable” insurgents in order to increasingly marginalize support for Al Qaeda in Iraq. Do we have that same goal here, or is the situation further complicated by the region’s more decentralized battlefield? [Image from BBC News]