Saturday, 6 March 2010
In yet another blow to the remnants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, one of the organisation's stalwarts, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, is reported to have been killed in a Pakistani Army airstrike on a hideout in Mohmand Agency yesterday, along with around 20 of his supporters.
Faqir Mohammad, a former teacher, was a deputy leader of the TTP and for a short while following the death of the organisation's former leader, Baitullah Mahsud in August last year, claimed he was the temporary leader.
His usual area of operations was in Bajaur Agency, an area which has recently seen a major offensive by the Pakistani Army. However, he was also active in the Swat Valley following the TTP's takeover last year.
Noted for his close relations with al-Qaeda - and in particular to Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri - Mohammad's death, if confirmed, will be a huge blow to the TTP. Although he did not come from the TTP's heartland of Waziristan, he held considerable sway in Mohmand and Bajaur. Another senior TTP commander, Qari Ziaur Rehman, is believed to have been killed in the same raid. Ziaur Rehman was believed to be the head of the Taliban in Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan and the US had offered a reward of USD 350,000 for him.
Reports said he would often move from Bajaur Agency to Afghanistan with his fighters to carry out attacks on US-led forces. Omar Rehman, alias Fateh Muhammad, is the third TTP leader killed in the airstrike, which took place in the Pandiali area of Mohmand. He was best known for leading Taliban fighters from Swat into Buner, a district located 100 km from Islamabad, last year.
Update: Reuters is claiming that one of its reporters spoke to Faqir Mohammad yesterday, who claimed he was uninjured. "I'm fine. It's just propaganda," said the man on the telephone who identified himself as Mohammad. The Reuters reporter said he recognized his voice.
"I was in Bajaur, not Mohmand that day. None of our commanders were killed in the attack. We lost some fighters and women," said the man purporting to be Mohammad.