The top spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan today denied that his group tried to kill a senior South Waziristan Taliban leader in a suicide attack that took place last week.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, the main spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, “condemned the attack” that targeted Mullah Nazir in a bazaar in Wana in South Waziristan, Dawn reported.
“The TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] spokesman further said that though the TTP may have organizational differences with Mullah Nazir, there were no ideological differences between the groups,” according to Dawn. “The problem created in South Waziristan is a tribal feud between the Ahmedzai Wazir and Mehsud clans which would be settled as per tribal customs, said the spokesman.” The Mehsuds form the nucleus of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
No group has claimed credit for the Nov. 29 suicide attack that targeted Nazir’s car as it was parked at the main bazaar in Wana. Six people were killed and 12 more were wounded in the explosion. Nazir was reportedly outside of his vehicle at the time of the attack making a phone call.
Two days after the suicide attack, Nazir ordered all Mehsud tribesmen to leave areas under his control. Nazir’s order to eject the Mehsuds is a direct admission that he has violated a 2009 agreement with the Pakistani government to not shelter the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Nazir has been at odds with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as well as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the past; both groups employ suicide bombers in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Nazir expelled some Uzbeks from his tribal areas in 2007 and 2008, and the move led to small-scale fighting between the groups. But after the Pakistani Army invaded the Mehsud tribal areas in late 2009, Nazir began sheltering the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Nazir has openly supported Taliban emir Mullah Omar and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan. In an interview with the Asia Times, Nazir rejected claims that he opposed al Qaeda, and affirmed that he considered himself to be a member of the global terror organization. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers “good Taliban” as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state.
Several top al Qaeda leaders, including Ilyas Kashmiri, Abu Khabab al Masri, Osama al Kini, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, and Abu Zaid al Iraqi, have been killed while being sheltered by Nazir. [For more information on Nazir and al Qaeda leaders killed while under his protection, see LWJ reports, ‘Good’ Pakistani Taliban leader Nazir affirms membership in al Qaeda, and US drones kill ‘good’ Taliban commander in South Wazirstan.]
Mullah Nazir’s Taliban faction is one of four major Taliban groups that have joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al Qaeda late last year. The Shura-e-Murakeba also includes Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s group; the Haqqani Network; and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US in Afghanistan, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas.
In June, Nazir banned polio vaccinations in his areas, and claimed that the program is being used by the US to gather intelligence and conduct drone strikes in the tribal areas. His action followed that of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, another so-called “good Taliban” leader, who shut down the vaccination program in North Waziristan earlier that month.