Friday 29 January 2010

Splits develop within Pakistan Taliban

Even if a growing number of reports saying that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mahsud is dead are not true, problems are growing for the organisation. In Bajaur, near to the Khyber Pass, splits are opening up. Dawn reports that Maulana Faqir Mohammad - deputy chief of the TTP and once a close associate of former TTP leader Baitullah Mahsud - has been replaced as leader of the Bajaur TTP.
The report says he has been replaced by Maulana Mohammad Jamal, aka Maulvi Dadullah. Faqir Mohammad's supporters, who are in the minority, continue to claim he is leading the TTP in the region, but this is strongly denied by Maulvi Dadullah's supporters.
The origin of this split appears to have emerged last summer when Faqir Mohammad told his followers not to resist government troops who were advancing towards the militant stronghold of Varr Mamond. He was opposed by a majority of the local TTP shura.
At the time, other senior commanders, including Qari Ziaur Rehman and Maulana Inayet Rehman, intervened and worked out a compromise.
However, the split has now broken into the open. In the last few days there has been heavy fighting in the area between the Pakistan Army and militants, with the Army claiming to have killed at least 15 of the militants.
If these reports about splits are true it will be a massive setback for the TTP. Maulvi Faqir Mohammad has been a central figure in the organisation for some time. Born in 1970 in the Bajaur Agency, he is a member of the Mohmand tribe. Formerly affiliated with the TNSM led by Sufi Mohammad, he has publicly stated that he has close ties to al-Qaeda's No 2, Dr Ayman Zawahiri.
After Baitullah's death in August last year, Faqir Mohammad first announced that he had assumed temporary command of the TTP, but later declared that Hakimullah had been elected leader by a TTP shura of 42 men. Amongst other things, he is accused of orchestrating the 8 November 2006 suicide attack on an Army training centre at Dargai in NWFP which killed 45 recruits of the Punjab Regiment Centre.
As for Hakimullah, almost nothing has been heard from him since the TTP admitted that he had been injured in a drone strike on 14 January. They issued a tape recording of his voice, but it sounded weak. Now the reports say that he died in the last few days while being looked after at the house of his second wife's father in Mamozai village in Orakzai Agency.

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