The AfPak Reader

September 15, 2009

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 9 – Volume 6

Filed under: Enemy Profiles,Summer 2009 — huntingnasrallah @ 5:04 pm

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 9 – Volume 6

Faqir Mohammed takes command of Pakistani Taliban
By Bill Roggio
August 19, 2009 3:42 PM

The mystery over the status of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud deepened today after his deputy appointed himself acting leader and named a new spokesman for the group.

Faqir Mohammed, the leader of the Taliban faction in Bajaur and the second-in-command of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said he has temporarily taken control of the group as Baitullah is too ill to carry out his responsibilities. Faqir insisted Baitullah was alive and that he would step down as acting leader once Baitullah was well enough to resume command.

“I have taken over the leadership of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan],” Faqir told AFP .”Two days ago our shura held a meeting in which my leadership was endorsed.” Faqir said Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Mehsud , two senior commanders who are thought to be in line for Baitullah’s command, agreed to his takeover of the Taliban.

“Baitullah Mehsud is alive but he is seriously ill,” Faqir continued. “In his absence I announce, as vice-president of the TTP, the takeover of his leadership.”

Muslim Khan, the chief spokesman for the Swat Taliban, has been named the new spokesman for the national organization, Faqir told the BBC. Khan emerged today and made a threatening phone call to the commissioner of the Malakand Division, telling him the military must end attacks against the Taliban in the northwest.

Khan replaced former spokesman Maulvi Omar, who was captured during a joint operation by security forces and a tribal lashkar, or militia, in the Mohmand tribal agency. Pakistani officials are claiming that Omar admitted Baitullah Mehsud was killed during the Aug. 5 US airstrike on his father-in-law’s compound in South Waziristan that killed his wife and seven Taliban fighters. Omar had previously told the media that Baitullah was not killed in the attack.

Pakistani and US officials have insisted that Baitullah was killed in the Aug. 5 airstrike and that the Taliban has been feuding over his succession. Pakistani officials claimed Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman shot and killed each other during a firefight at a meeting to pick the new Taliban leader. Haji Turkistan Bhittani, a rival of Baitullah’s, has floated numerous rumors of internal turmoil within the Pakistani Taliban.

But the Taliban have denied that Baitullah was killed in the strike and have maintained that no clash between Waliur and Hakeemullah Mehsud took place. Both Taliban commanders later spoke to the media and confirmed they were alive, yet Pakistani intelligence officials still claim Hakeemullah was killed.

The Pakistani government has been unable to produce evidence that Baitullah was killed; while the Taliban have yet to release a promised videotape that would confirm Baitullah is alive. Taliban commanders have previously said Baitullah would release a tape once he recovers from his illness.

Baitullah is known to have diabetes and occasionally falls ill from the disease. Some intelligence officials believe Baitullah was at his father-in-law’s compound to receive treatment for his diabetes. Pakistani officials previously thought Baitullah died from complications in September 2008, but he later surfaced at a feast celebrating his marriage to his second wife.

US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal refuse to confirm or deny Baitullah’s death, contradicting more definitive pronouncements made by National Security Advisor General Jim Jones and Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.

One official described the reports of an intra-Taliban feud as “highly exaggerated and in some cases manufactured.”
Extended Notes (Roggio’s Links)

Pakistan Taliban commander claims leadership of militia
By Lehaz Ali (AFP) – Aug 19, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A top Taliban commander said Wednesday he had taken over as acting head of the militant group in Pakistan but denied reports that his boss Baitullah Mehsud had been killed.

American and Pakistani officials believe Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mehsud was killed earlier this month in a missile attack by US drone aircraft in the lawless northwest tribal belt near the Afghan border.

They have not been able to provide any proof of his death and the Taliban deny his demise, but there has been no word from the feared warlord since the strike, and analysts say the militant structure is in disarray.

Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, one of Mehsud’s deputies, said the Taliban held a shura, or meeting of elders, and named him as their leader.

“I have taken over the leadership of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Two days ago our shura held a meeting in which my leadership was endorsed,” Mohammad told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“Baitullah Mehsud is alive but he is seriously ill. In his absence I announce, as vice-president of the TTP, the takeover of his leadership.”

He said two other senior Taliban leaders reportedly vying for the top post — Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur Rehman — had endorsed his leadership, but the militants were not immediately available for comment.

In a blow for the militants, top Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar was taken into custody on Monday. Pakistani intelligence officials say he has confirmed that Mehsud was killed in the strike on his father-in-law’s house.

But as the war of words and counter-claims raged on, a TTP chief based in the tribal agency of Mohmand denied Omar’s apparent confession.

“There is no truth in the statement attributed to Maulvi Omar. He has not said this himself. This is what the (intelligence) agencies are saying,” Omar Khalid told AFP by telephone.
“I have spoken to Baitullah Mehsud two days ago and he told me that his message will be issued to the media soon.”

Mohammad said he had appointed Muslim Khan — the spokesman of the Taliban faction operating out of the northwest Swat valley — as spokesman for the umbrella TTP organisation to replace the detained Omar.

US and Pakistani officials accuse Mehsud of masterminding the 2007 assassination of ex-Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and blame him for the deaths of hundreds of people in bomb attacks over the past two years.

Pakistan launched a military operation in the northwest districts of Buner, Lower Dir and Swat after armed Taliban militants advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad in April in defiance of a peace deal.

After declaring the districts cleared of Taliban last month, the military turned its attention to the tribal belt along the Afghan border — Mehsud’s stronghold and an alleged Al-Qaeda bolthole.

Pakistan’s prime minister had earlier Wednesday hailed the military’s “success” against the Taliban.

“Terrorism and extremism are eating at Pakistan like termites,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a speech.

“Our brave military fought the terrorists, they were martyred also, and with the blessings of Allah we achieved success,” he added.

Analysts have said that the Taliban were plunged into disarray as they battled to select another leader, but warn that they could regroup.

And despite the military’s claims of success in Swat, Buner and Lower Dir, Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah remains at large, while skirmishes in the region continue.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.



Pakistan Taliban spokesman named
Published: 2009/08/19 13:23:26 GMT

A new chief spokesman for Taliban militants in Pakistan has been named following the capture on Monday of Maulvi Omar, Taliban officials say.

Spokesman Muslim Khan is to replace Maulvi Omar, who was arrested while travelling near the Afghan border.

Meanwhile a senior Taliban commander says he has taken over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban umbrella organisation on a temporary basis.

Maulvi Faqeer told the BBC he was now acting chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban.

He said he was just replacing Baitullah Mehsud for a short time because he was sick. Mr Mehsud was reported to have died in an American drone attack earlier this month.

But under questioning on Tuesday, Maulvi Omar confirmed that that Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had been killed, the Pakistani authorities say.

Intense pressure

A Taliban official said Muslim Khan had been appointed with immediate effect.

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says his nomination appears to be an effort by the Taliban to create more of a unified structure in Pakistan.

Mr Khan is from the Swat valley, where militants have been under intense pressure recently because of advances by the Pakistani army.

Our correspondent says there has been tension in recent weeks between Taliban groups who have borne the brunt of the military’s offensive in Swat and elsewhere in the north-west, and militants in North and South Waziristan who have so far not been seriously affected by the fighting.

The announcement of Muslim Khan’s appointment was made by Maulana Faqir Mohammed, the head of the Taliban in Bajaur, another area that has seen heavy fighting.
Pakistani intelligence officials have been questioning Maulvi Omar since he was arrested on Monday in Mohmand tribal area while travelling to South Waziristan.

Observers say that while Maulvi Omar was never a military commander, as a senior and trusted associate of Baitullah Mehsud, he would have been able to tell his interrogators much about Taliban plans and strategy.

Mr Omar was the second prominent Taliban figure to be arrested in 24 hours.
Qari Saifullah, a commander affiliated to Harkat Jihad-e-Islami, was detained while being treated at a private hospital in Islamabad, officials said, reportedly after being wounded in a missile strike.

Both men are still being questioned about their possible roles in militant attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, police said.

Mr Omar was the official spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – an umbrella organisation of regional and tribal-based Pakistani militant groups – and is said to have been a senior aide of Baitullah Mehsud.

Correspondents say his arrest is significant because he had been acting as a liaison between the various Taliban groups and was a key figure in Taliban propaganda campaigns.



Hakimullah Mehsud is dead: official   
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
By Mazhar Tufail

ISLAMABAD: Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a meeting of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) council on August 7 and the calls being made to various media organisations purportedly by him are in fact by one of his cousins who is currently in Afghanistan, a source told The News here on Tuesday.

“Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in an exchange of fire in a meeting of the TTP council held to select a successor to Baitullah Mehsud and now one of his cousins based in Afghanistan is making calls to give credence to the claims of the TTP that Hakimullah is still alive,” an official of a prime intelligence agency said, requesting anonymity. “Close resemblance of face and voice has led to presentation of his cousin as Hakimullah.”

“By doing so, the TTP commanders are attempting not only to conceal the death of Hakimullah but also to avoid further disintegration of the banned outfit, which is already in disarray after the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a drone attack on August 5,” said the source, adding the intelligence agencies could not confirm the name of the man being dubbed as Hakimullah.

The local media reported on August 8 that Hakimullah was killed after shooting erupted during a TTP council meeting convened on August 7 to select the successor to Baitullah. On August 10, a man claiming to be Hakimullah called a reporter of a foreign news agency to declare that he and Baitullah were still alive.

“The Pakistani intelligence agencies have got access to the recording of the call and it has been established to a great extent that the resemblance of voice and face of the man with Hakimullah is being exploited by the TTP in support of their claims to deny the death of Hakimullah,” the source said.

The source said junior TTP commanders were also hurling threats at tribal elders in the tribal agencies to keep alive the dwindling fear of the outlawed militant organisation. For the same purpose, he said, a cousin of late Hakim is being dubbed as Hakimullah. He said a large number of TTP militants, frustrated because of the death of their two top leaders, had already crossed into Afghanistan.Hakimullah had first come out of the shadow of his boss, Baitullah, when he introduced himself to the media in late November 2008.


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