Center: Omar Khalid, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the tribal agency of Mohmand. Reuters image.
A dangerous commander from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who is closely linked to al Qaeda claimed yesterday’s suicide attack in Peshawar that was carried out by a female.
Omar Khalid, the Taliban’s leader in the tribal agency of Mohmand, said the use of a female suicide bomber was part of the Taliban’s evolving “strategy” in their war against the Pakistani state.
“It is part of our strategy and in war strategies keep on changing,” Khalid told AFP. “The blasts were in reaction to the current military operation in the tribal areas.”
Khalid also said that such attacks would continue until Pakistani Army offensives that are designed “to appease the United States” are halted. The Pakistani military has repeatedly claimed success in operations in the tribal areas, including in Mohmand, but in reality has failed to unseat the top Taliban leaders in the tribal areas.
Yesterday’s suicide attack in Peshawar, which targeted a police checkpoint but killed an elderly woman, was the third suicide attack carried out by a female in Pakistan since December 2010. The Taliban have also carried out three other suicide attacks inside Afghanistan since June 2010 [see LWJ report, Female suicide bomber strikes in Peshawar, for the list of attacks].
Omar Khalid, the Taliban commander of Mohmand agency.
Mohmand Taliban under command of able leader
Khalid is a senior deputy of Hakeemullah Mehsud’s Taliban movement. Khalid is considered one of the Taliban’s most effective and powerful leaders in the tribal areas. He also maintains close ties to al Qaeda and is believed to have given sanctuary to Ayman al Zawahiri in the past.
Khalid is also allied with Qari Zia Rahman, the dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda leader who operates in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of Mohmand and Bajaur as well as in Afghanistan’s provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. Rahman established and runs the suicide training camps that are used to indoctrinate and train female bombers [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda, Taliban create female suicide cells in Pakistan and Afghanistan].
Khalid has been active in the Taliban’s propaganda machine since the death of Osama bin Laden, and has been vocal in his support of al Qaeda. In mid-May, Khalid vowed revenge on Pakistani and US forces for the death of Osama bin Laden.
“We will take revenge of Osama’s killing from the Pakistani government, its security forces, the Pakistani ISI, the CIA and the Americans, they are now on our hit list,” Khalid said. “Osama bin Laden has given us the ideology of Islam and Jihad, by his death we are not scattered but it has given us more strength to continue his mission.”
In early June, Khalid said the Taliban have been behind the spate of attacks in Pakistan and again threatened the US.
“Our war against America is continuing inside and outside of Pakistan. When we launch attacks, it will prove that we can hit American targets outside Pakistan,” Khalid said.
In the same interview, Khalid said that Ayman al Zawahiri is al Qaeda’s “chief and supreme leader.” He stated this more than one week before Zawahiri was officially declared emir of al Qaeda.
Khalid gained prominence during the summer of 2007 after taking over a famous shrine in Mohmand and renaming it the Red Mosque in honor of the radical mosque in Islamabad whose followers had attempted to impose sharia in the capital.
The Mohmand Taliban took control of the tribal agency after the Pakistani government negotiated a peace agreement with the extremists at the end of May 2008. The deal required the Taliban to renounce attacks on the Pakistani government and security forces. The Taliban said they would maintain a ban on the activities of nongovernmental organizations in the region but agreed not to attack women in the workplace as long as they wore veils. Both sides exchanged prisoners.
The Taliban promptly established a parallel government in Mohmand. Sharia courts were formed, and orders were given for women to wear the veil in public. “Criminals” were rounded up and judged in sharia courts. Women were ordered to have a male escort at all times and were prevented from working on farms. The Taliban also kidnapped members of a polio vaccination team.
In July 2008, Khalid became the dominant Taliban commander in Mohmand after defeating the Shah Sahib group, a rival pro-Taliban terror group with ties to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The military claimed it killed Khalid in January of 2009, but the Taliban denied the report and he has since surfaced.
The Pakistani government has placed a $123,000 bounty on Khalid’s head.