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Tehrik Taliban-i Pakistan (TTiP) - Leaders
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan

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 shunned media and refused to be photographed, indicating that he stood 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 2006 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 Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA], though this claim was 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 said 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 was giving them sanctuary and they were training his forces.

Baitullah Mehsud may have been 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 refused to recognize the Durand Line as a legitimate frontier and has explicitly ruled 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 was said to be raised through trafficking in drugs. Mehsud and his organization were reportedly used by the Government of Pakistan as conduits for the payment of compensation to local residents affected by the fighting in South Waziristan.

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.

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 stated that the Tehriki-Taliban Pakistan umbrella organization of the Pakistani Taliban groups was formed in December 2007.

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 early- and mid-2008, Pakistani forces pulled back from TTiP's stronghold in Waziristan. These deals did not lead to greater stability. 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."

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."

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.

After a suspected US drone strike killed Baitullah Mehsud, Hakimullah Mehsud took charge of the Taliban in Pakistan in 2009. Hakimullah had been close to Baitullah, being appointed his chief spokesman in 2007. Hakimullah became known as a rising star within the Taliban and masterminded a series of attacks on NATO supply vehicles headed for Afghanistan. Thought to be responsible for thousands of deaths, Hakimullah Mehsud had a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Pakistani Taliban leader earned a reputation for being "fiery," "aggressive" and "reckless."

TTP claimed to have supported the failed attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Times Square on May 1, 2010. TTP’s claim was validated by investigations that revealed that TTP directed and facilitated the plot. Throughout 2011, TTP carried out attacks against the Government of Pakistan and civilian targets, as well as against U.S. targets in Pakistan. Attacks in 2011 included: a March bombing at a gas station in Faisalabad that killed 31 people; an April double suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan that left more than 50 dead; a May bombing of an American consulate convoy in Peshawar that killed one person and injured 12; a May siege of a naval base in Karachi; and a September attack against a school bus that killed four children and the bus driver.

TTP continued to utilize the same tactics against similar targets in 2012. In March, a suicide bomber struck at a mosque in Khyber Agency, and killed over a dozen people while injuring approximately 10 others. In May, an attack in the Bajaur tribal region killed 24 people when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a police checkpoint near a crowded market. In August, TTP stormed a Pakistani Air Force base in Kamra; five Pakistani soldiers were killed in the ensuing firefight. Also in August, TTP militants pulled 22 Shia Muslims off busses in the remote Pakistani district of Manshera before shooting them dead.

The Pakistani army said it was investigating reports that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud died from injuries sustained in a US drone missile strike in mid-January 2010. The army's announcement followed a report on Pakistani state television that Mehsud had died and has been buried. The Taliban has denied again Sunday that their leader was killed. Conflicting reports about the militant leader's death first surfaced after the January bombing in northwest Pakistan that killed at least a dozen militants. The Taliban released two audio tapes after the bombing as proof Mehsud survived the attack. Some reports say Mehsud may have been killed in another drone attack a few days later. Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told the French News Agency that Mehsud is "alive and safe." He said media stories about Mehsud's death are meant "to create differences among Taliban ranks." Tariq said the Taliban had provided proof that Mehsud is alive, and that people who say he is dead "should provide proof." US officials had said they were more than 90 percent certain the militant leader had been killed. And in February, Pakistan's interior minister said there was "credible information" Mehsud was dead.

Pakistan's interior minister said he was unable to confirm reports in January 2012 that the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the North Waziristan tribal region. Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad Monday that unless he has "DNA evidence" or confirmation from his own "independent sources," he will not say Mehsud is dead. Unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials said they had intercepted wireless radio conversations of the Taliban fighters discussing whether their chief was killed in the attack. Some of the overheard militants confirmed Mehsud was dead, while at least one criticized them for talking about it on the radio. There was no official confirmation from Pakistan, and the Taliban issued a denial.

The young leader was killed in a suspected US drone strike 01 November 2013. Hakimullah Mehsud was believed to be in his late 20s at the time. He had been reported dead before in attacks. Pakistan's government protested the drone strike that killed Mehsud, saying the United States was sabotaging Pakistani peace talks with the domestic Taliban by killing the group's leader. The drone strike that killed Mehsud in the North Wazirstan tribal area came a day before the government was to send a three-member delegation of clerics to the region with a formal invitation to start peace talks.

"It is clear that the U.S. is against peace and does not want terrorism to subside. Now, we only have one agenda: to stop NATO supplies going through (the northern province of) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," Asad Qaiser, the speaker of the provincial assembly, told Reuters. Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan, whose party is ruling in northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, threatened to stop the NATO supply line in the province.

Initially it was reported that Khan Syed [aka Khalid Sajna] had been appointed as new chief of Pakistan Taliban one day after the death of former leader Hakeemullah Mehsud. The consultative body of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) reportedly appointed Sajna the new chief of the outfit in a meeting held at a undisclosed place in the northwestern tribal region of North Waziristan. Sajna, a close aide of former chief Hakeemullah, was said to have gotten 43 out of 60 votes of the consultative body. Sajna has been leading the Taliban chapter of South Waziristan since May 2013 after a US drone strike killed an important leader named Wali-ur-Rehman. Sajna, 36, was reportedly involved in some of the big terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including the attack on a naval base in Karachi and last year's jailbreak in which the Taliban freed around 400 inmates in the country's northwestern district of Bannu. According to reports, Sajna had no formal education, conventional or religious, but he is considered as a battle- hardened and experienced guerrilla battle commander.

But other factions of the Pakistani Taliban alliance were unhappy with the choice and were supporting other candidates. These included Mullah Fazlullah, the ruthless commander from Swat Valley, northwest of Islamabad, whose men shot and wounded schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in 2012. After the funeral of Mehsud, the Consultative Body of Pakistan Taliban held two separate meetings at undisclosed locations in two different regions, but could not succeed in reaching consensus over one name. At a meeting held in north western tribal region of North Waziristan, Khalid Sajna was named for the post of new chief. But, a group of Consultative Body that reportedly met at unknown place in Nuristan province of Afghanistan opposed the result and suggested another person.

So a Taliban spokesman told local reporters 03 November 2013 that central shura leader Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani had been named interim chief. Earlier reports from the area had suggested that another Taliban militant, Said Khan, was also a likely successor to Hakimullah Mehsud. Both men were considered possible permanent replacements for Hakimullah Mehsud. Asmatullah Shaheen, also known as Asmatullah Bhittani, is a leader of TTP in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region of South Waziristan, and he would be in charge of running the daily affairs of TTP, said the report.

By November 07, 2013 Maulana Fazlullah, the fugitive leader of the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan's Swat Valley, replaced Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike on November 1. Fazlullah earned the nickname 'Radio Mullah' for his rousing radio speeches in the Swat Valley when the TTP controlled the mountainous region of northwestern Pakistan from 2007 to 2009. He is considered a fiery orator and the most hard-line figure among the top commanders of the Pakistani Taliban movement.

Shura participants also voted against holding peace talks with Pakistan's government, citing Islamabad’s alleged covert support of U.S. drone attacks against Taliban fighters, including the strike that killed previous group leader Hakimullah Mehsud. The choice of Fazlullah has dampened hopes of any peace process between the Pakistani Taliban and the government of Pakistan. Fazlullah was considered hard line even within the Pakistani Taliban movement.

Authorities believed that Fazlullah has taken refuge in neighboring Afghanistan and has been ordering cross-border attacks against Pakistani posts as well as civilian targets. His alleged presence on Afghan soil has become another irritant in uneasy relations between Kabul and Islamabad. The militant commander has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks on security forces, including the bombing of an army convoy that killed a top Pakistani general near the Afghan border.

On 16 December 2014, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a military-run school in Peshawar which killed over 140 people, mostly children, claiming it was revenge for a Pakistani army operation in North Waziristan. A Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman claimed that they'd sent in six gunmen wearing military uniforms and suicide vests to attack the military-run facility. Over 500 students and teachers were believed to be inside when the attack began.

The United States added to its official terrorism list the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, which claimed credit for the assault on a Pakistani school that killed 134 children and 16 staff members. The State Department on January 13, 2015 named Maulana Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Fazlullah, a "specially designated global terrorist," a label meant to target "terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism."

The designation made it a crime for U.S. citizens to engage in transactions with Fazlullah. It also allows the U.S. government to seize any of his property or interests that are in the United States, including those under the control of U.S. citizens. The United States designated the Pakistani Taliban a terrorist group in 2010.

The State Department said that before becoming the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Fazlullah claimed to be behind the killing of Pakistani Army General Sanaullah Niazi in 2013, and that he ordered the 2012 assassination attempt on Pakistani schoolgirl and activist Malala Yousafzai, who later year won the Nobel Peace Prize. The teenager was openly campaigning for girls’ education in the conservative northwestern area when gunmen critically wounded her. The incident has since turned Malala, moved to Britain with her family, into a figure of international renown. The State Department said Fazlullah also was responsible for the beheading of 17 Pakistani soldiers after an attack in 2012.

In a statement issued 23 June 2018, the militant Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, said that its leadership council has named Mufti Noor Wali Mehsood as the group's new chief and Mufti Mazahim as his deputy. In contrast to Fazlullah's infamous brutality, the new TTP leader has a scholastic and literary background. Mehsud, 40, studied at a number of religious seminaries in Pakistan to specialise in different fields of religious teaching. He served as a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud, who has been blamed for the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The new leader Mehsud earlier authored a book in 2018 in which he described the planning of Bhutto's assassination, identifying the militants involved, including one who is still at large and believed to be hiding in South Waziristan.

In February 2018 the newly-appointed deputy commander of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mufti Noor Wali, took over his new position in the banned militant group after formal approval by TTP chief Maulana Fazalullah. They said the group’s central shura and Mehsud circle Taliban approved Wali’s appointment in a meeting held 14 February 2018. During the meeting, Qari Azmatullah was made Wali’s naib (deputy).

Mehsud also fought against the US-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and took part in TTP attacks against Pakistani security forces. He hails from Gorgoray area of Sararogha tehsil and belongs to Mechikhel, a sub-clan of the Mehsud tribe. He also remained a qazi (judge) of Sharia court established by Baitullah Mehsud.

“With the appointment of Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud the leadership of TTP has returned to Mehsud tribe in its home base South Waziristan as Fazlullah was from Swat,” Rahimullah Yusufzai, an acclaimed journalist and expert on the Taliban, told AFP. Mehsud's leadership could see the breakaway factions which emerged in the TTP after Fazlullah fled to Afghanistan in 2009 reunite, Yusufzai said.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2018 18:45:40 ZULU