In yet another example of how crime and money are at the centre of much of the activity of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a notorious kidnapper and TTP commander, Adnan Afridi, was found dead with three bulletholes in his head in Rawalpindi on Monday.
As in the case of the Punjabi Taliban/Asian Tigers, who fell out and began killing each other after arguing over the division of ransom money, Afridi's story is less about Islam and more about money and crime.
Afridi, who came from the Wandgarai tribe of Bar Qambarkhel in Bara sub-division of Khyber Agency, was once a senior TTP commander and close aide of TTP leader Hakimullah Mahsud. He was in his late twenties and usually based in Darra Adamkhel, but had been in hiding for the past few weeks after falling out with the TTP leadership. He was expelled from Sadda in Kurram agency after killing some local TTP commanders in an attack on a vehicle. He had also been involved in a fierce gunfight with another prominent TTP commander, Mullah Toofan, in the Neka Ziarat area of central Kurram in July which resulted in 10 fighters being killed. Both sides in the dispute had used heavy weapons in the fighting.
Afridi was also involved in a feud with the Lashkar-i-Islam group in the Khyber region, having killed two of their commanders, Azam and Said Noor, in suicide attacks. The feud started when he refused to hand over three Sikhs he had kidnapped for ransom in March this year. One of the Sikhs was beheaded, while the other two were rescued in a Pakistan Army operation. In interviews he gave after being freed, one of the surviving Sikhs, 17-year-old Gurvinder Singh, said "All the bandits wanted was money. They were not religious men. We did not see any one of them offering prayers even once."
Some reports say that Afridi was also behind the August 2008 killing of Haji Namdar, chief of the Bara-based militant organisation Amr Bil Maroof wa Nahi Anil Munkir (Suppression of Vice and Promotion of Virtue Movement). Haji Namdar, who was a religious zealot but against attacks inside Pakistan, had forcibly rescued six Frontier Corps personnel captured by Afridi during an attack on a security checkpost in Ziarhai in 2008.
Haji Namdar had at first been lionised by the TTP, but was later accused of betraying the TTP after it tried to move into the Khyber agency that year. While at first supporting the TTP, who wanted to stage attacks on NATO convoys passing through the Khyber Pass to Kabul, he turned against them. The TTP has never been able to establish much of a foothold in the Khyber agency, where most tribesmen follow the moderate Barelvi school of Islam. It is thought that slain TTP leader Baitullah Mahsud sent Afridi to kill Haji Namdar in revenge for his alleged betrayal.
Afridi was last seen in the Shah Kas area of Jamrud tehsil in the Khyber agency, but moved on from there to Kohat after staying briefing in Bara in the last week of October. He had been staying with another TTP activist, Qudrat Khan, but only narrowly escaped when security forces arrived, killing Khan.
From there he was thought to have moved to the remote Tirah Valley, in the process cutting his long hair and trimming his beard. For some reason he decided to travel to Rawalpindi, where one of his many enemies caught up with him. Like many of his former brothers-in-arms, he seems to have spent more of his life killing fellow jihadis than anyone else.
This killing and others in recent weeks, including the apparent murder of one of Baitullah Mahsud's brothers, show that many of the militant islamist groups based along the border are beginning to break down and to destroy themselves. This process, exacerbated by the drone strikes that are killing many senior commanders and attrition by the Pakistan Army, is inevitable. Lacking the discipline of the Afghan Taliban and only motivated by the idea of plunder, these groups will eventually self-destruct.