Taliban claim responsibility for Pakistan attacks

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Taliban on Friday took responsibility for triple bombings at a Shi’ite Muslim procession in the city of Lahore that killed 33 people.

Wednesday’s blasts in the eastern city was the first major militant attack in Pakistan since floods waters tore through the country over the past month.

“It’s revenge for the killings of innocent Sunnis,” a spokesman for Qari Hussain Mehsud, mentor of the Taliban’s suicide bombers, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“We also have videos of the fidayeen (bombers) and we may release them,” the spokesman Shakirullah Mehsud told Reuters.

Thousands of people have been killed in sectarian violence by militants from majority Sunni and minority Shi’ite sects of Islam in Pakistan for over two decades.

Hussain is a senior leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan led by Hakimullah Mehsud, who was charged by U.S. prosecutors this week in the plot that killed seven CIA employees at an American base in Afghanistan last December.

The United States on Wednesday included TTP in its list of foreign terrorist organizations and announced a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest and another TTP leader, Wali-ur-Rehman.

Pakistan itself had announced 50 million rupees ($590,000) each for any information about Hakimullah, Rehman and Hussain.

Commonly known as “Ustad-e-Fidayeen” or “the mentor of suicide bombers,” Hussain began his militant career with an anti-Shi’ite group before joining TTP, the main Taliban grouping in Pakistan which is fighting Pakistani government forces and is also increasingly seen as direct threat to the United States.

Al Qaeda-backed TTP claimed responsibility for the failed bomb plot in New York’s Times Square.

The attack in Lahore came as the government is struggling to cope with country’s worst floods with millions of people threatened by malnutrition and diseases.

The floods struck just as the army said it had made progress in the war against the TTP militants.

Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Michael Georgy and Sanjeev Miglan