Center for Strategic Communication

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for a bombing today at a political rally in the tribal agency of Kurram that killed at least 18 people. Additionally, the Taliban named a new emir for the tribal agency.

The Pakistani Taliban group, which is closely linked to al Qaeda, claimed credit for the attack that targeted Munir Orakzai, a candidate for the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl political party. Orakzai escaped the blast unhurt, but 18 people are said to have been killed and 42 more were wounded.

The Taliban claimed credit for the attack in an email received by The Long War Journal from Ihsanullah Ihsan, the top spokesman for the group. Ihsan said Orakzai was targeted “not due to his current political affiliation with JUI,” but because he aided the Pakistani government in turning over “arab mujahideen,” a clear reference to al Qaeda operatives, to the US. Ihsan accused Orakzai of turning over al Qaeda operatives who fled the US offensive during the battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001.

“We attacked him because of the crimes he committed against Islam and mujahideen,” Ihsan said. “He handed over dozens of Arab mujahideen to America, now suffering in Gitmo. He worked with full zeal with ANP, MQM, and PPP [Pakistani political parties] for last five years in shedding blood of innocent tribesmen.”

“We will never forgive him nor leave him alive,” Ihsan also said.

Last week, Ihsan urged Pakistanis to “rebel” against the government, railed against democracy in Pakistan, and communicated the group’s affinity for al Qaeda.

“We appeal to the Pakistani nation to save themselves from American puppets, ” Ihsan said last week. “We appeal to the Pakistani public to boycott the election and rebel against this system, which has exploited the real aspirations and wishes of Pakistani public. We dedicate all our activities for the next decade to Sheikh Osama bin Laden and name this operation after him.”

Over the past several weeks, the Pakistani Taliban have conducted several attacks against political candidates, party headquarters, and political gatherings. But the Taliban said they would not attack members of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl party.

The leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Fazl Rehman, is widely credited with creating the Afghan Taliban by training many of its members in madrassas in Baluchistan province and northwestern Pakistan. Fazl led the opposition in parliament from 2004-2007. Despite his overt support for the Taliban, which continues to this day, he remains a free man in Pakistan.

A new Taliban emir for Kurram

In addition to explaining why Orakzai was targeted, Ihsan also said that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has named a new leader for the tribal agency of Kurram.

“Hafiz Dolat Khan alias Hafiz Ahmed has been appointed as emir of Kurram Agency by TTP shura and the above mentioned operation was his first achievement,” Ihsan concluded.

Khan replaced Maulvi Noor Jamal, who is also known as Maulvi Toofan and is considered a ruthless and bloodthirsty commander. Jamal is at the forefront of the sectarian war against the Shia population in Kurram. In early 2010, Jamal denied rumors that he had taken control of the Pakistani Taliban after Hakeemullah Mehsud was reported killed in late January 2010. In fact, Jamal claimed Hakeemullah was still alive.

In 2011, Jamal’s forces clashed with Fazal Saeed Utezai, a former Taliban commander who defected to the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. The fighting between the two groups quickly died down and Kurram has been relatively quiet since.