The AfPak Reader

September 15, 2009

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

Filed under: Enemy Profiles,Journalist Chronicles,Summer 2009 — huntingnasrallah @ 6:06 pm

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

Hakeemullah Mehsud appointed the new leader of Pakistani Taliban
By Bill Roggio
August 22, 2009 10:03 AM

Hakeemullah Mehsud has been appointed as the new leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Hakeemullah was unanimously chosen to lead the Pakistani Taliban after the group’s shura, or executive council, met over the past several days. The shura reportedly met in the Arakzai tribal agency, which is under control of the Taliban.

Hakeemullah is an able Taliban leader who has led attacks on NATO convoys in Khyber and Peshawar. He leads Taliban forces in Arakzai, Khyber, Kurram, and in areas of Peshawar [see backgrounder on Hakeemullah below].

The appointment of Hakeemullah to replace feared South Waziristan leader Baitullah Mehsud was announced by Faqir Mohammed. Faqir, the leader of the Taliban in Bajaur and Baitullah’s deputy, was appointed the interim leader of the Pakistani Taliban on Aug. 19.

Faqir claimed that Baitullah, who is believed to have been killed in a Predator airstrike on Aug. 5, is still alive but is too ill to lead the Pakistani Taliban. Faqir also announced that Azam Tariq is the new chief spokesman for the Taliban. Tariq replaces Muslim Khan, who was named spokesman just days ago after Maulvi Omar, the longtime spokesman of the group, was captured by Pakistani security forces.

“The new appointments of Taliban chief and spokesman were made unanimously by a Taliban Shura which met in Arakzai Agency recently”, Faqir said, according to the Times of India.

“According to his will, his [Baitullah’s] successor should be appointed during his life time and he has nominated Hakeemullah Mehsud to succeed him”, Faqir said.

The shura was attended by all 22 members of the Pakistani Taliban, and the meeting lasted two days. Although not stated, representatives from al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Haqqani Network were likely in attendance.

Faqir also said that South Waziristan Taliban leader Mullah Nazir and North Waziristan leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who are not members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, approved the appointment. This indicates that Siraj Haqqani, the guiding hand behind the Pakistani Taliban and the military commander of the Haqqani Network, approves of Hakeemullah’s assumption of command.

Faqir also announced Hakeemullah’s appointment on his illegal FM radio station in Bajaur.
“The shura has appointed Hakeemullah as successor to Baitullah Mehsud,” Faqir said according to AFP. “The shura earlier had nominated me as the acting chief but now I will be again deputy chief. I shall continue to be amir [leader] of TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] in Bajaur.”

“Baitullah is alive but he is seriously sick,” Faqir continued on the radio. “God forbid if Baitullah is dead, Hakeemullah will be his successor.”

Hakeemullah has been considered one of the frontrunners to take control of the Pakistani Taliban in the event Baitullah was killed or could no longer perform his duties. Taliban leaders Waliur Rehman Mehsud and Qari Hussain Mehsud were also said to be potential candidates.

Baitullah’s status is still unclear

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 additionally that 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. Nonetheless, just days ago Pakistani intelligence officials claimed Hakeemullah had been 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. Last year Pakistani officials 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.

The officials contacted by The Long War Journal also said the reports of Taliban infighting are largely false. One official described the reports of an intra-Taliban feud as “highly exaggerated and in some cases manufactured.”

The report of Hakeemullah replacing Baitullah as the new Taliban leader does bolster the US and Pakistani government’s claims that Baitullah was killed in the airstrike.

“No matter whether Baitullah is dead or alive, one thing that is clear is that he is out of the game for now,” a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “The more time the Taliban spend on reorganizing the command structure, the less time there is for conducting attacks.”

Background on Hakeemullah Mehsud:

Hakeemullah, who is also known as Zulfiqar Mehsud, is Baitullah’s senior deputy. He is a cousin of Baitullah and of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the notorious Taliban commander who trains child suicide bombers in South Waziristan.

Hakeemullah is one of the Taliban’s most able commanders and a rising star in the Pakistani Taliban. He commands the Taliban forces in Arakzai, Khyber, and Kurram tribal agencies, as well as in some regions in Peshawar. In December 2008, Hakeemullah imposed sharia, or Islamic law, throughout Arakzai.

Hakeemullah has been leading operations against NATO’s supply lines in Khyber and Peshawar. His forces have been behind raids that have led to the destruction of more than 600 NATO vehicles and shipping containers. The raids have also destroyed two vital bridges. Pakistan has closed the Khyber Pass to NATO traffic six times since September 2008 because of the attacks. The raids on the supply columns moving through Khyber have forced NATO to search for alternative supply routes into Pakistan.

He has also taken credit for a series of suicide attacks and complex assaults in Lahore and Peshawar. He claimed the attacks under the guise of the Fedayeen-e-Islam.

Pakistani security forces and the US have tried to kill Hakeemullah. He was the target of a series of Pakistani strikes in the Arakzai tribal agency in mid-April. On April 1, the US targeted a meeting in Arakzai with a Predator attack aircraft after receiving intelligence that Hakeemullah might be in attendance.
Extended Notes (Roggio’s Links)

Hakimullah Mehsud appointed as new Pak Taliban chief
Omer Farooq Khan, TNN
22 August 2009, 06:06pm IST

ISLAMABAD: Taliban “Shura” (council) has unanimously appointed Hakimullah Mehsud to be the successor of slain Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and Azam Tariq as the chief spokesman of the defunct Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Denying that Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in South Waziristan, the acting Taliban chief Maulvi Faqir Muhammad told media that Mehsud is seriously ill and cannot run the organization’s affairs.

“According to his will, his successor should be appointed during his life time and he has nominated Hakimullah Mehsud to succeed him”, he said.

Pakistan’s top militant commander, Baitullah Mehsud was reportedly killed along with his wife, and six bodyguards in a missile strike fired from the unmanned US drone aircraft on August 5.

“The new appointments of Taliban chief and spokesman were made unanimously by a Taliban Shura which met in Orakzai Agency recently”, said the acting Taliban chief.

According to sources in the tribal region, Taliban commanders were frequently holding secret meetings in Waziristan and Orakzai Agency, after Mehsud’s death, to appoint his successor and plan the future strategy of the organization in Mehsud’s absence. A few days ago, Taliban postponed their “shura” meeting in Orakzai Agency, as several Taliban commanders could not arrive for a meeting. The meeting was called to finalize and announce names of a new Taliban chief and spokesman.

The former Taliban spokesman, Maulvi Omer was arrested last Tuesday in Mohmand Agency when he was going to Orakzai Agency for a “shura” meeting.

However, on Wednesday, Maulvi Faqir, who was a deputy chief of TTP and “amir” of Taliban of Bajaur Agency, declared himself to be the acting chief of TTP and Muslim Khan, spokesman of Swat Taliban as his spokesman. He also denied that Taliban shura was ever called to appoint Baitullah’s successor.

“Being a deputy chief of the TTP”, Maulvi Faqir had said “it is his right to take control of the TTP as Baitullah’s health does not allow him to run the organization’s affairs.

While announcing Hakimullah Mehsud to be the new TTP chief, Maulvi Faqir Saturday said that militant commanders of Waziristan-based Taliban groups, Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur who were not part of the TTP, have also welcomed Hakimullah Mehsud’s appointment.

In his late 20’s, Hakimullah was a handpicked militant commander of Baitullah Mehsud and was given charge of Taliban affairs in the tribal regions of Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai agencies. Hakimullah, is also said to have planned and carried out attacks on Nato and US convoys in Peshawar and Khyber Agency.

Sometime back, the tough and blunt Hakimullah also gave strong-worded statements against leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and threatened attacks against them.

After Baitullah’s death, interior minister Rehman Malik and militant commander of anti-Baitullah Mehsud group, Turkistan Bhittani had said that Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a bloody shootout among rival Taliban factions during a meeting over the succession question in Srarogha area of South Waziristan. The claims of Hakimullah death were proved wrong when he talked to several TV stations and blamed Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) for spreading rumours.



Hakeemullah Mehsud new chief: Faqir
Saturday, 22 Aug, 2009 | 08:15 PM PST |

KHAR: Militant commander Faqir Mohammad, who had proclaimed himself as successor to slain Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud only a couple of days ago, announced on Saturday that the much younger Hakeemullah Mehsud was the new leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Faqir’s statement to the media, however, compounded the confusion over Baitullah Mehsud’s successor amid reports of infighting within militant groups over leadership and TTP’s vast assets, including cash and weaponry.

‘I am stepping down as leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban in the larger interest of the movement,’ Faqir Mohammad, the TTP leader from Bajaur and Baitullah’s deputy, told reporters on phone from an undisclosed location.

‘There were a few problems on certain issues last week, but they have been resolved now,’ he acknowledged.’I am the most senior leader of the TTP after Baitullah and the sacrifices I rendered for it are no less. However, due to some unavoidable reasons, I am stepping down. There is no factionalism within the TTP now.’

Faqir Mohammad claimed that a 42-member shura of the Taliban met in Orakzai tribal region and it unanimously endorsed Hakeemullah as new leader of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The shura appointed Azam Tariq the new spokesman for the TTP to replace Maulvi Omar, who was arrested by security forces in Mohmand a few days ago.

Hakeemullah, who once served as a driver of the slain TTP leader, was considered very close to Baitullah Mehsud.
But intelligence services continue to believe that Hakeemullah was killed in a shootout following a brawl with another contender for the top slot at a meeting soon after Baitullah’s death.

‘He is dead and there is no question about it,’ a senior security official said.

However, the government has not been able to produce convincing evidence of the death of either Baitullah Mehsud or his heir-apparent Hakeemullah Mehsud.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that the government was close to obtaining evidence to prove Baitullah was dead.

Faqir Mohammad, however, insisted the TTP leader was alive but had gone into seclusion due to health reasons.

Security officials believe that Faqir’s announcement about the new TTP chief indicated that the infighting over succession was not over. ‘The announcement is just a ruse to gain time to allow the TTP to regain control of the leadership,’ an official said.


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