Friday, August 14, 2009

Taliban Kill Anti-Taliban Tribal Leaders in Pakistan's Northwest by Bill Roggio

A Taliban suicide bomber killed a pro-government tribal leader in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan, and two pro-government tribal leaders were killed in Bajaur.

In South Waziristan, a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a car and killed an anti-Taliban tribal leader named Malik Khadeen along with one of Kadeen's relatives and two other persons. The attack took place in a bazaar in Wana.

In the past, Khadeen had "organized tribal meetings and activities to counter the power of the Taliban, particularly Uzbek Taliban, in the area," Geo News reported.

The Wana region is administered by Taliban leader Mullah Nazir. Nazir's forces battled Uzbeks from the Islamic Jihad Union during an intra-Taliban dispute in 2007 and 2008. The government seized upon this dispute to attempt to divide the Taliban and the al Qaeda-backed IJU. Nazir was labeled "pro-government" and the military provided support for his operations.

The dispute was eventually settled by a joint Taliban and al Qaeda shura. Siraj Haqqani and Mullah Dadullah, the former deputy commander of the Afghan Taliban, were among those who mediated the disagreement. Nazir has continued to host al Qaeda training camps and has since joined with Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar in an alliance to oppose a military operation in Waziristan.

The Wana suicide attack took place one day after an anti-Baitullah Taliban group known as the Abdullah Mehsud Group battled with Baitullah's forces in Jandola. Haji Turkistan Bhittani, a leader in the Abdullah Mehsud Group, claimed that more than 1,000 of Baitullah's forces attacked villages under Bhittani's control, but were beaten off after the military weighed in with helicopter and artillery support. Bhittani said that more than 100 fighters were killed, nearly all of them Baitullah's forces, but more conservative reports put the total number killed at 14 fighters.

Zainuddin Mehsud, the former leader of the Abdullah Mehsud Group who was killed by one of Baitullah's assassins, had previously allied with Mullah Nazir during his feud with Baitullah. Zainuddin was cast aside by Nazir after the latter allied with Baitullah in February 2009. The Pakistani government backs the Abdullah Mehsud Group despite the group's insistence it will continue to send fighters into Afghanistan to battle US and Coalition forces.

Tribal leaders executed in Bajaur

In the northern tribal agency of Bajaur, two pro-government tribal leaders were executed by the Taliban. The tribal leaders were shot multiple times and their bodies were dumped along the road.

Bajaur is a Taliban stronghold under the control of Faqir Mohammed, a deputy commander under Baitullah Mehsud. Faqir has close ties to al Qaeda, and he has personally sheltered Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, several times over the past eight years.

The military claimed Bajaur was Taliban-free after a brutal six-month-long operation that resulted in the destruction of several towns. But the Taliban have continued attacks and the military has been forced to re-launch operations in an attempt to secure the agency.

Lashkars forming in Lakki Marwat and Kohistan

As the Taliban take out opposing tribal leaders in South Waziristan and Bajaur,
tribal lashkars, or militias, are forming in the districts of Lakki Marwat and Kohistan in the Northwest Frontier Province.

In the Shah Hasankhel region in Lakki Marwat, which borders South Waziristan, tribal leaders said they were raising more than 400 fighters to join a local lashkar. The tribal leaders decided to form the lashkar to keep out the Taliban after their homes were looted during a military operation against the Taliban. Tribal leaders blamed the police for looting their homes.

In Kohistan, tribal leaders threatened to block the roads to an area where the Taliban attacked a military convoy a week ago. One soldier was killed during the Taliban ambush along the vital Karakoram Highway. The tribal leaders threatened to raise a lashkar to block the roads if the local tribes refused to turn over the Taliban fighters responsible for the attack.

The Taliban have viciously responded to efforts by tribal leaders to oppose the spread of extremism in the tribal areas. Tribal opposition has been violently attacked and defeated in Peshawar, Dir, Arakzai, Khyber, and Swat. Suicide bombers have struck at tribal meetings held at mosques, schools, hotels, and homes [see LWJ report, Anti-Taliban tribal militia leader assassinated in Pakistan's northwest, for more information on the dificulties with raising tribal lashkars in Pakistan's northwest].

The Taliban perfected this strategy in North and South Waziristan. Tribal leaders who opposed the Taliban were brutally liquidated. The Taliban would execute the leaders and dump their bodies on the roadside with notes pinned to their chests branding them as "US spies" and traitors. The bodies are often mutilated and beheaded.

The Taliban have made very public examples of local leaders who have dared to resist. Last December, the Swat Taliban executed a local tribal leader named Pir Samiullah, then returned to the village to dig up his body and hang it in the town square. The villagers were warned not to remove his body or they would face the same fate [see LWJ report, Video: Taliban execute Swat tribal leader].

Military strikes Taliban bases in Kurram and Arakzai

Pakistani military helicopters attacked Taliban bases in the tribal agencies of Kurram and Arakzai today. The military claimed 12 Taliban fighters were killed in the helicopter strikes, and several Taliban bases were destroyed.

The camps were run by Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud, a cousin of and senior deputy to Baitullah. The government has claimed that Hakeemullah was killed during a clash last week that allegedly also killed Waliur Rehman Mehsud, a purported rival, during a Taliban shura that was to pick Baitullah's successor. But both Hakeemullah and Waliur have since spoken to the media and denied government reports that Baitullah was killed in an Aug. 5 US Predator airstrike in South Waziristan.

Hakeemullah also promised that Baitullah would release a tape to prove he is alive, but no such tape has yet been received by the media.

No comments: