Faqir Mohammed. Image courtesy of AfPax Insider.
Faqir Mohammed, the deputy emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was relieved of his command, according to the spokesman for the terror group.
Faqir, who has led the Taliban forces in the Bajaur tribal agency, served as interim emir for the Movement of the Taliban, and sheltered Ayman al Zawahiri and other top al Qaeda leaders, was dismissed by the group’s emir, Hakeemullah Mehsud.
“The TTP [Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] shura met with its central emir Hakeemullah Mahsud in the chair,” Ihsanullah Ihsan, the Taliban’s top spokesman said, according to a report in The News. “It felt that the organization no more required the role of Maulvi Faqir Mohammad as naib [deputy] emir. From today, he will be considered a common fighter and will no longer enjoy the status of TTP naib emir.”
Although the reason for Faqir’s dismissal was not given, he is known to have been at odds with the local Taliban in Bajaur for retreating in the face of a Pakistani military offensive several years ago and for conducting negotiations with the Pakistani government and military this year, as well as controversial tactics such as kidnapping children along the border.
Today Faqir claimed in an interview with Reuters that he was not formally told of his dismissal, and said he only heard about it via Ihsan’s statements in the media.
“Except for Ihsanullah Ihsan, who contacted the media, no important Taliban leader has contacted me,” he told the news agency. He also said he had “no information on this council, its members, or where its meeting was held.”
Faqir also denied the accusation that he had conducted negotiations with the Pakistani government without permission from the group’s leadership.
“Whenever I’ve held talks with the government of Pakistan, I’ve held them with the permission and advice of the central leadership of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” Faqir told Reuters. “When the Taliban in Afghanistan can talk to America, then why can’t we talk to the government of Pakistan?”
Faqir’s dismissal has been met with disapproval from some Taliban commanders in Bajaur. Taliban commanders Maulana Abdul Mutalib, Fazal Khan, Maulvi Abdullah, and Liaqat Khan told The New York Times that “[t]he decision of the shura has disappointed the Bajaur Taliban,” and that “t]his is untimely and can create a rift amongst the mujahedeen.”
Faqir is a close ally of Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of al Qaeda. Up until the late 2000s, al Qaeda has used Bajaur as a forward command and control center for operations in northeastern Afghanistan. In 2007, US Predators targeted one of Faqir’s madrassas in Bajaur. The target of the attack was Zawahiri, who is said to have left the madrassa just hours before.
The Pakistani military has conducted several operations in Bajaur since 2008, but has failed to fully eject the Taliban. Since 2008, the Pakistani military has twice claimed victory over the Taliban in Bajaur. During the same time period, the military has launched several major operations in an effort to clear the Taliban from the tribal agency. The campaign has been described as brutal, as the military used scorched earth tactics in an effort to eject the terrorist group.
But the military has failed to kill or capture the top Taliban leaders in Bajaur. The leadership cadre and most of the fighters escaped to neighboring tribal agencies or slipped across the border into the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.
Faqir’s forces have teamed up with those of Mullah Fazlullah, the Taliban leader of Swat who was forced from the Pakistani district in 2009, and Qari Zia Rahman, the dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban commander who operates in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies in Pakistan and Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan.
These commanders have been behind a string of attacks along the border. Last year, military and police outposts in Chitral, Dir, and Bajaur in Pakistan, as well as in Nuristan and Kunar in Afghanistan, have come under massed assaults by hundreds of Taliban fighters.
In one of the larger attacks in Pakistan this last year, 27 policemen and 45 Taliban fighters were killed during battles in the Shaltalu area of the district of Dir in the beginning of June. At least 16 policemen were captured and then brutally executed by the Taliban. A video of the execution was released on the Internet [see LWJ report, Video of brutal Taliban execution of Pakistani policemen emerges].
In addition to military activities along the Afghan-Pakistani border, Faqir is known to broadcast for several hours a day on an illegal FM radio channel in order to spread jihadist propaganda and intimidate those who oppose Taliban rule. He is believed to broadcast his radio show from Afghanistan.