The US government has added Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the fractured Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists today.
Fazlullah, who assumed command of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) in November 2013 after his predecessor, Hakeemullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike, was listed as a global terrorist by the State Department.
State noted that since Fazlullah took control of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the group has claimed the deadly assault on a school in Peshawar in December 2014 that resulted “in the deaths of at least 148 individuals, mostly students.”
“Prior to becoming the leader of TTP, Fazlullah claimed he was behind the killing of Pakistani Army Major General Sanaullah Niazi in September 2013, as well as ordering the shooting of schoolgirl and activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012,” State continued. “Fazullah was responsible for the beheading of 17 Pakistani soldiers after an attack in June 2012 and also ordered the targeted killings of elders who led peace committees against the Taliban.”
Since Fazlullah took control of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in late 2013, the group has fractured.
Fazlullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio for his radical sermons broadcast throughout the northwest, has been among the top leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan since its founding in 2007. He engineered the Taliban takeover of Swat and neighboring districts from 2007-2009, and brutally ruled over a cowed civilian population. The Pakistani military intervened only after Fazlullah’s forces invaded Buner and advanced to just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. He has vowed to continue the fight to regain control of the Swat Valley.
He is one of the most extreme commanders in a group filled with extremists. He was one of the first leaders to have opposed polio vaccinations. In 2012, he proudly ordered the assassination of Malala Yousufzai, the young schoolgirl who has spoken out passionately against the Taliban in Swat, and accused her of violating sharia, or Islamic law. And in 2013, he took credit for the assassination of a Pakistani Army general who commanded operations in Swat.
Fazlullah is also closely tied to al Qaeda. When he openly ruled Swat from 2007 to 2009, he said al Qaeda fighters were welcome there and that training camps were in operation. One of his top deputies, Ibn Amin, also served as a leader of one of six known brigades in al Qaeda’s Lashkar-al-Zil, or Shadow Army. Amin was killed in a US drone strike in Khyber in December 2010.
The Taliban emir is known to take shelter in Afghanistan’s remote northeastern province of Kunar as well as in Nangarhar province. US forces largely withdrew from the provinces of Kunar and neighboring Nuristan beginning in 2009 after isolated Army outposts came under deadly attacks. At the time the withdrawal was announced, US military officials claimed the insurgency would recede from the two provinces and that al Qaeda would lose support as US forces were fueling the insurgency. Instead, al Qaeda and groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan have become entrenched in the two provinces since the US withdrawal.