Tehrik Taliban-i Pakistan (TTiP)
On 06 August 2009 Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said intelligence sources confirmed that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a missile strike in the South Waziristan tribal region. Mehsud had organized a dozen militant groups under his leadership in late 2007 and named it the Tehrike Taliban Pakistan.
The Waziris, who by 1910 numbered some 40,000 fighting men altogether, were at that time divided into two main sections, the Darwesh Khel (30,000) and the Mahsuds (8000), with two smaller sections. The Mahsuds, who then inhabited the tract of country lying between the Tochi Valley on the north and the Gomal river on the south, had earned for themselves an evil name as the most confirmed raiders on the border; but they were a plucky race, as active over the hills as the Afridis [in the Khyber Agency], and next to them the best-armed large tribe on the frontier. From Wana to Tank, from Tank to Bannu, and from Bannu to Datta Khel, for a distance of over 200 miles, British territory in India before the Great War was open to Mahsud depredations.
Abdullah Mehsud [Mehsud being the tribal name, not a family name], a graduate of the Gomal University, spent 25 months in the US-run Camp X-ray until his release in March 2004 [it remains unclear why he was released]. He lost a leg in a landmine explosion as the Taleban fought to take over the Afghan capital Kabul in 1996. The one-legged commander had been captured when fighting with the Taliban in 2001 in Afghanistan. Soon after his release Abdullah Mehsud ordered the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers to pressurize the government into halting counter-terrorism operations in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
By December 2004 Abdullah Mehsud was "the self-proclaimed local leader" and Baitullah Mehsud was "the commander of militant forces in Mehsud territory". In January 2005 Abdullah Mehsud and Baitullah Mehsud were on the wanted list of the authorities for their alleged involvement in attacks on troops in the Mehsud-dominated areas of the South Waziristan which borders Afghanistan. Abdullah Mehsud, carrying a reward of Rs5 million on his head, was accused of being involved in the kidnapping of the two Chinese engineers. In January 2007 Baitullah Mehsud was said to be a lieutenant to the tribal leader, Abdullah Mehsud, who had been leading local militants in the region. By March 2007 Baitullah Mehsud was said to be "the most powerful Taliban leader in South Waziristan." In July 2007 Abdullah Mehsud died in south-western Balochistan province, reportedly at the age of 32 years old. Pakistan interior ministry spokesman Javed Cheema told the AFP news agency that Mehsud blew himself up with a hand grenade after soldiers raided a hideout in the Zhob district of Balochistan. Abdullah Mehsud had been in Afghanistan for more than a year and that there was no evidence that he organized the recent violence in Pakistan.
Baitullah Mahsud, chieftain of the Mahsud tribe in South Waziristan as of 2008, was reportedly 34 years old in 1987, suggesting he was born around 1983. Baitullah Mehsud did not attend schooling or religious madrasa. He shuns media and has refused to be photographed, indicating that he stands by the Taliban version of Islam.
By 2008 Baitullah Mehsud reportedly commanded 5,000 fighters, while other reports said he commanded about 20,000 pro-Taleban militants, and a report in 2996 had estimated Baitullah Mehsud commanded an army of 30,000 fighters. All these estimates, and surely the larger one, must refer to combat-inclined men under arms rather than the number in the field fighting, given the generally modest operational tempo exhibited by Baitullah Mehsud's followers. Baitullah Mehsud was said to operate with relative impunity in FATA, though this claim is contradicted by his disputes with local commanders outside his Mehsud tribal area in South Waziristan. Baitullah Mahsud had reportedly built up strongholds in North and South Waziristan by recruiting and training young men, and "killing uncooperative tribal leaders."
Some accounts say that he operated under the legendary Afghan Taleban commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani. Other accounts claim that Mehsud was independent of the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan - but he is giving them sanctuary and they are training his forces.
Baitullah Mehsud may be among the most irreconcilable of elements in western Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud was once quoted as saying, "Only Jihad can bring peace to the world." Mehsud refuses to recognize the Durand Line as a legitimate frontier and has explicitly rules out any end to the "jihad in Afghanistan." The NWFP governor claimed that Mehsud oversaw an annual money flow of up to three billion Pakistani rupees (about $45 million) to sustain his regional militancy. Most of this money is said to be raised through trafficking in drugs. Mehsud and his organization are reportedly used by the Government of Pakistan as conduits for the payment of compensation to local residentsy affected by the fighting in South Waziristan.
Tehrik Taliban-i Pakistan (TTiP / TTP - Movement of Studens in Pakistan), led by Baitullah, is an umbrella organization for indigenous Pakistani Taliban commanders, based in Pakistan, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The name "Tehrik-i-Taliban" had been used prior to the latest December 14 announcement. An organization with a similar name emerged in FATA's Orakzai Agency in 1998. Some reports also mention a similar organization by the name of Tehrik-i- Tulaba (Movement of Students) also operating in Orakzai Agency that even established an active Shari`a court. The name and idea, therefore, is not original.
On 23 October 2007, a credible newspaper in Pakistan disclosed that five militant groups joined hands to set up an organization named Tehrik-i-Taliban in Mohmand Agency with a goal "to flush out gangs carrying out criminal activities in the name of Taliban." Other reports state that the Tehriki-Taliban Pakistan umbrella organization of the Pakistani Taliban groups was formed in December 2007.
The Islamabad government formally banned the TTP in August 2008 due to its alleged involvement in a series of domestic suicide attacks. TTP is said to have a presence in all seven agencies of FATA and many districts in NWFP. By early 2009 TTP was characterized as "a conglomerate of between 30-40 militant groups operating in agencies of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)." A shura of 40 senior Taliban leaders established the TTP as an umbrella organization. Militant commander Baitullah Mehsud was appointed as its amir, Maulana Hafiz Gul Bahadur of North Waziristan as senior naib amir (deputy) and Maulana Faqir Muhammad of Bajaur Agency as the third in command.
As Steve Emerson noted : "These tribal and Taliban militias, however, are vulnerable in one sense: there is a certain amount of tension and discord stemming from disagreements and inter-tribal distrust. One example of this is an apparent schism between Mehsud and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, another Taliban leader in Waziristan and deputy commander of TTP, Mehsud's umbrella organization. While Bahadur and Mehsud are leaders of the same organization, they are of different tribes. Bahadur was among the signatories of the peace deal between the Pakistani government and North Waziristan in September 2006, mentioned above. Bahadur has resisted Mehsud's efforts too coordinate attacks in North Waziristan, which is Bahadur's turf. Bahadur has even negotiated independent ceasefires and truces with the Pakistani Army and told Mehsud to steer clear of North Waziristan."
The Government of Pakistan sought stability along the border with Afghanistan by continuing their traditional policy, which followed in the footsteps of the British Raj. Pakistan achieved a series "truces" with local leaders in 2004, 2005, and 2006. In February 2005 the Pakistani military reached a peace deal with Baitullah Mahsud, and withdrew its forces from check points in the region. A Pakistan Army spokesman confirmed that a November 2004 deal included giving Baitullah Mehsud and three other tribal leaders about $540,000 to repay loans they had taken from Al Qaeda. Abdullah Mehsud vowed to continue his "jihad" despite the pact between the Pakistan government and several of his former allies.
In mid-2006, Islamabad struck a peace deal with insurgents in North Waziristan. Pakistan agreed to end military operations and remove local checkpoints, in return for an halt in insurgent attacks on government officials. In early- and mid-2008, Pakistani forces pulled back from TTiP's stronghold in Waziristan. These deals did not lead to greater stability.
Baitullah Mehsud issued vows to avenge Pakistani military and paramilitary attacks in the region in early 2007; he reportedly has been linked to at least four anti-government suicide bombings in Pakistan and in 2007 emerged as a major challenge to Islamabad's writ in the tribal areas.
On 30 August 2007 some 250 Pakistani soldiers, including a colonel and 8 other officers, were taken prisoner when pro-Taliban militants ambushed their convoy in South Waziristan. The troops apparently offered no resistance before surrendering to Islamist extremists reportedly loyal to fugitive commander Baitullah Mahsud. President Musharraf later criticized the troops for taking insufficient precautionary measures. Only hours after Musharraf's November 3 emergency decree, the militants released 211 of the troops. Reports indicate that government authorities had released 25 detained militants in exchange, including several men said to be convicted aspiring suicide bombers.
The 27 December 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in a suicide bombing after a political rally in Rawalpindi, was the most prominent suicide attack of the year. Pakistani government officials quickly blamed pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militant Baitullah Mehsud for Bhutto's killing. Through a spokesman, Mehsud has denied any involvement in the killing. The Government of Pakistan immediately stated that Baitullah Mahsud, a leading Pakistani Taliban commander with close ties to AQ, was responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. In Pakistan there was a massive outburst of rage against Musharraf and everything associated with his government, including the government's claim that it had evidence that the Pakistani Taliban, led by Baitullah Mahsud, carried out the assassination, claiming they had intercepted a telephone conversation in which Mehsud took credit for the act.
Supporters of Benazir Bhutto remained skeptical of the country's initial investigation that concluded al-Qaida or Taliban assassins most likely killed her in December 2007. The initial investigation by Pakistani authorities into the gun and suicide bomb attack that killed her after a political rally in Rawalpindi blamed Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban commander. US intelligence officials also named him as the most likely suspect. Her supporters have rejected those findings, suggesting that Ms. Bhutto's political opponents may have been involved and tampered with the investigation. British investigators later largely confirmed the initial findings, although admitted their access to evidence was limited.
In South Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud's forces conducted successful assaults on key forts in Ladha, Sararogha and Seplatoi between 10 and 17 January 2008. Although the Pakistani security forces had generally been successful in rolling back such gains, even the temporary loss of control over towns or military facilities represents a significant blow to the legitimacy and credibility of the government.
On 19 January 2008, 14 men were arrested by Spanish authorities in Barcelona, 12 of whom were Pakistani. Police found what they said was bomb-related material in a number of raids. One of the plotters reportedly told an informant, "Only the leadership of the organization knows what requests the emir [Mehsud] will make after the first attack, but if they are not carried out, there will be a second attack in Spain, and a third. And then in Germany, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom. There are many people prepared there."
On Feb. 10, 2008 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the war on terror in Afghanistan is Europe's war. "Many who have been arrested have had direct connections to al Qaeda," he said. "Some have met with top leaders or attended training camps abroad. Some are connected to al Qaeda in Iraq. In the most recent case, the Barcelona cell appears to have ties to a terrorist training network run by Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistan-based extremist commander affiliated with the Taliban and al Qaeda - who we believe was responsible for the assassination of (former Pakistani Prime Minister) Benazir Bhutto."
In a video interview recorded in August 2008, Maulvi Omar, the official spokesman of TTP, claimed that the organization was responsible for the foiled suicide bombing plot. When asked whether the TTP could ever carry out an attack against the West, Omar replied: "The one in Barcelona was conducted by twelve of our men. They were under pledge to Baitullah Mehsud and TTP has already claimed responsibility, because Spain's military presence in Afghanistan."
On 01 October 2008 Military officials in the field confirmed to CNN that Mehsud had died. Geo Television of Pakistan and other local stations also reported his death. Mehsud is said to have succumbed to kidney failure. The reports of his death were greatly exagerated.
When Baitullah Mehsud's TTP became a serious threat to the government, the government tried to unite other militant groups against Baitullah Mehsud, thus, bringing together Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazeer. By 21 February 2009 a 14-member Shura of Pakistani and Afghan Taliban commanders played a role in resolving differences among the three militant commanders. Leaders of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Taliban commander in North Waziristan and Maulvi Nazeer, militant commander in South Waziristan pardoned each other for the previous killings of their people and material losses.
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