A chorus of reports suggests that Usman Punjabi, leader of the Asian Tigers or Punjabi Taliban, and five of his followers were killed in a gunbattle with Mahsud tribal militants in a dispute over an Arab widow in the Dandy Darpakhel area of North Waziristan on Saturday.
The Asian Tigers are the group that killed former Pakistan airforce and ISI officer Khalid Khwaja earlier this year and are still said to be holding another former ISI officer and a British journalist, Asad Qureshi, who were kidnapped at the same time.
According to the AKI news agency, tension mounted between the Punjabis and local Mahsud tribal militants after an Arab was killed in a drone strike. The Mahsuds took the rich Arab widow into their custody and began making arrangements to get her married off to one of their kinsmen.
Anxious not to be left off the list of potential suitors, Usman's group insisted the woman should be allowed to make the decision herself - a rare example of jihadis allowing a woman to make a decision.
On Saturday after breakfast - which would have been before dawn during Ramadan - militants from the Mahsuds and the Punjabis gathered in a local school in Dandy Darpakhel to try to resolve the issue. The argument became so fierce that both parties pulled out their guns and opened fire. Eight people were killed in total - six Punjabis and two Mahsuds. "We have killed the spy', the Mahsud tribesmen cried after killing Usman Punjabi. Another account of the dispute, which differs in some details, can be read here.
Usman's group, which split from the equally sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is not universally popular in the tribal areas or with the Afghan Taliban fighters, particularly since the Asian Tigers refused to release the former ISI officer, Colonel Imam, when instructed to do so by Mullah Omar. The fate of Colonel Imam and Asad Qureshi is unknown.
From this report and the two that preceded it on this blog, it is clear that all is not well between the 'Brothers'. They are killing more of their own than their enemies. All in the name of Islam.
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