Pakistani Taliban establish 'base' inside Syria
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has sent "experts in warfare and information technology" to Syria to establish a base and monitor the fighting there. The disclosure of the existence of the Pakistani Taliban's Syrian cell occurred just two days after a group that bears the same name as an al Qaeda unit in Pakistan claimed to have executed an attack on Hezbollah in Beirut.
The Pakistani Taliban sent 12 "experts in warfare and information technology" to Syria in the past two months to aid Syrian jihadists, while the base was established in Syria six months ago, the BBC reported.
The BBC interviewed a senior Pakistani Taliban leader known as Mohammad Amin, who is described as the "coordinator" of the group's efforts in Syria.
"He [Amin] said that the cell has the approval of militant factions both within and outside" of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the BBC noted.
"They were facilitated by our friends in Syria who have previously been fighting in Afghanistan," Amin said. The Pakistani Taliban cell is in Syria to "assess the needs of the Jihad in Syria, and to work out joint operations with our Syrian friends," he continued.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan works closely with the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and a host of non-aligned Taliban groups and jihadist organizations in Pakistan. Amin did not disclose which of these groups approved the Pakistani Taliban's establishment of a cell in Syria. Al Qaeda has a strong presence in Syria, and its official affiliate, the Al Nusrah Front, and the rogue Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, control territory throughout the country [see LWJ report, Islamic State of Iraq leader defies Zawahiri in alleged audio message].
The Pakistani Taliban are capable of establishing a cell in Syria even as they are waging jihad against the Pakistani government and fighting in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has insisted that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is weak and fractured due to military operations against the group.
The announcement of the existence of the Pakistani Taliban cell in Syria took place just two days after a group calling itself "313 Brigade" claimed credit for a bombing in a Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon. More than 50 people were wounded in the blast. The 313 Brigade blamed Hezbollah, which it calls the "Lebanese Party of Iran," and elements of the Lebanese government for intervening in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Syrian government.
The Syrian 313 Brigade shares the same name as the group that serves as al Qaeda's military organization in Pakistan. There is no direct evidence to link the Pakistani and Syrian groups, but al Qaeda is known to have tasked top operatives and recruits to fight in Syria. Al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria is known as the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant [see LWJ report, Islamic State of Iraq leader defies Zawahiri in alleged audio message].
Maulana Asim Umar, an al Qaeda ideologue based in Pakistan, claimed in May that some leaders and fighters from the region have been transferred to the Syrian front.
"And now the black flags of East Persia are moving to Syria after Iraq. The Mujahideen have established their centers in Syria ... in order to help establish caliphate," Umar said, according to a translation of his statement that was obtained by The Long War Journal.
"At present, al Qaeda and other Mujahideen of Islam have fully controlled this movement." he continued. "Several lashkars from Afghanistan are also leading in Syria."
The Pakistani Brigade 313 is made up of members from the Taliban and allied jihadist groups. Members of Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundallah (the Karachi-based, al Qaeda-linked group), and several other Pakistani terror groups are known to have merged with al Qaeda in Pakistan, and the group operates under the name of Brigade 313. This group is interlinked with Pakistan's Taliban and also recruits senior members of Pakistan's military and intelligence services, a senior US intelligence official has told The Long War Journal.