Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat.
One day after the Taliban launched a devastating suicide attack that killed over 30 paramilitary policemen in Swat, the Pakistani military launched an offensive. The Pakistani military targeted the religious seminary run by Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, the leader of the local Taliban. He is said to have gone into hiding just prior to the beginning of the offensive.
“Paramilitary troopers, after Friday noon prayers, raided a seminary of local militants’ commander Maulana Fazlullah at Imamdehri village,” the Kuwaiti News Agency reported. “A fierce gunbattle erupted between the supporters of Maulana and troopers when they tried to enter into the seminary. … [T]he two sides were still exchanging heavy fire, … troops fired mortar shells as well.”
The Pakistani military is said to be employing helicopter gunships and is believed to have taken over the Taliban training camp next to Fazlullah’s madrassa.
Fazlullah is one of the more radical and eccentric Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. Known as Mullah FM, he preaches jihad and calls for the imposition of sharia law on his illegally run radio station. He campaigns against girls’ schools and polio vaccinations. Fazlullah also conducts campaigns where he organizes the burning of television sets, digital and video cameras, computers, and other electronics as they are a “source of sin.”
The 28-year-old radical cleric is leader of the local al Qaeda-linked and outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law), which is also referred to as “the Pakistani Taliban.” The TNSM sent over 10,000 of its fighters into Afghanistan to fight US forces in 2001 before the fall of the Taliban.
In nearby Bajaur, the local Taliban destroyed five military checkpoints. “Meanwhile, commander of the local militants, Waliur Rehman, has warned that they would punish anyone doing illegal activities in the name of the militants,” The Daily Times reported. “Our main objective is to promote Islam and the imposition of Shariah,” Rehman said.
Bajaur is run by TNSM’s Faqir Mohammed, who has close connections to al Qaeda’s Ayman al Zawahiri. Bajaur is an al Qaeda command and control node. The Pakistani government negotiated with Faqir and the TNSM in the spring of 2007, and the cut a “peace deal” that turned the province over to he terrorists.
The Pakistani military has repeatedly launched offensives in the tribal agencies and settled districts of Swat, Tank, and North and South Waziristan, only to halt after taking heavy casualties and conduct negotiations with the Taliban.