Wanted Taliban commander killed in shootout in North Waziristan


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Eight South Waziristan Taliban commanders, pictured in a wanted poster: 1. Hakeemullah Mehsud, 2. Waliur Rehman Mehsud, 3. Qari Hussain Mehsud, 4. Azam Tariq, 5. Maulvi Azmatullah, 6. Mufti Noor Wali, 7. Asmatullah Bhittani, 8. Mohammad Anwar Gandapur.

The Pakistani military claimed today that it has killed one of the top 20 most-wanted Taliban commanders from South Waziristan during a clash in North Waziristan.

Ameerullah Mehsud was reported to have been killed during a shootout with the military at a checkpoint in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Two soldiers were wounded during the clash.

Ameerullah's name appeared ninth on a list of most-wanted Taliban commanders from South Waziristan that was published by the Pakistani government during the summer of 2009. Twenty Taliban commanders from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan were listed as wanted "dead or alive." Ameerulllah had an estimated $300,000 bounty out for his death or capture (see LWJ report, "Pakistan captures wanted South Waziristan Taliban commander").

Ameerullah served as a military commander in South Waziristan and is believed to have aided in many of the terror attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas and in the heart of the country. He also went by the names Qari Gud ("the man who limps") and Mazloomyar ("friend of the oppressed"), AFP reported.

So far, only two commanders on the wanted list have been killed or captured. On November 27, Pakistani forces detained Abdullah Shah Mehsud, another military commander, during a raid in Tank, a district that borders South Waziristan.

The killing of Ameerullah in Miramshah serves to highlight the continued presence of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in areas where "peace agreements" have been struck with Taliban leaders in North and South Waziristan who are not formally allied with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, led by Hakeemullah Mehsud.

During the summer of 2009, just before launching an operation against Hakeemullah's forces in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, the Pakistani military signed peace agreements with Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the most powerful Taliban leader in North Waziristan, and Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Wazir Taliban in South Waziristan. The agreements called for the Taliban in those areas to allow the military safe passage and to stop sheltering the Mehsuds or "foreign fighters" - al Qaeda and other allied outside terror groups.

But Bahadar and Nazir have failed to abide by the peace agreements. Their forces have sporadically clashed with the Pakistani military, and they have continued to shelter the Mehsuds and al Qaeda.

The fact that al Qaeda still shelters in North and South Waziristan can be easily seen by the identities of those killed in the US Predator airstrikes in these tribal areas. Over the past month, the US has killed three al Qaeda military commanders in strikes in North Waziristan, and an al Qaeda commander in the Wazir tribal areas in South Waziristan. Also, a Taliban commander named Hamza Mehsud was killed in a US strike in Miramshah in June.

The Pakistani government and the military have rebuffed US pleas to take action against the terror groups in North Waziristan, including the powerful Haqqani Network, which is closely allied with al Qaeda and routinely carries out deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's military and intelligence services consider Bahadar, Nazir, and the Haqqanis to be "good Taliban" as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state. But Nazir and Bahadar, like the Haqqanis, are anything but benign. Nazir openly supports Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan; more senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Nazir's tribal areas during the US air campaign than in those of any other Taliban leader in Pakistan. And Bahadar gives cover to the Haqqanis, al Qaeda, and other Central and South Asian terror groups.

At the end of May, Bahadar claimed to have expelled Hakeemullah Mehsud's followers as well as the so-called Punjabi Taliban, a mix of jihadist groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. "Almost 98 per cent of the Mehsud militants along with some Punjabi Taliban have left North Waziristan," a Taliabn leader close to Bahadar told The News. Bahadar reportedly issued the expulsion order after being threatened by the military that an operation would take place.



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