Pakistani Taliban faction claims spokesman was captured in Afghanistan

On April 17, the Pakistani military said that Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesman of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a dangerous faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, voluntarily surrendered. Today, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar insisted that Ehsan was “arrested” in eastern Afghanistan and later turned over to the military.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, the spokesman for the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Public Relations branch, claimed that Ehsan “turned himself into our security agencies,” Dawn reported.

Pakistani authorities were eager to trumpet Ehsan’s alleged surrender as a victory. “There can be no bigger achievement for Pakistan than the fact that our biggest enemies are now realizing the error of their ways and are turning themselves in,” Ghafoor said.

However, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar disputes Ghafoor’s account. Earlier today, the group issued a statement attributed to Asad Mansour, its new spokesman, claiming that Ehsan was captured on March 7 by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI-D) along with “three other colleagues” and subsequently turned over to the Pakistani military. According to Mansour, Ehsan was captured in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, which borders Pakistan and is a known haven for multiple jihadist groups.

Mansour accused the Pakistani military of using “the Mujahideen prisoners to lure” other jihadists into negotiations and their eventual “surrender.”

Ehsan has been an influential spokesman and the face of Pakistani jihadist groups for the past decade. He served as the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan up until 2014, when Jamaat-ul-Ahrar split off from the group and formed its own branch. Ehsan joined Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and became its spokesman. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar reunited with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan earlier this year, but has maintained a degree of autonomy.

As spokesman for both groups, Ehsan has taken credit for some of the more gruesome attacks and atrocities in Pakistan over the years. In 2011, Ehsan gleefully noted that his fighters kidnapped 25 young boys, as well as a group of parents and tribal elders in Bajaur.

Ehsan joined other jihadists in condemning the Pakistani Taliban’s assault on the Army Public School in Peshawar in Dec. 2014. More than 140 people, mainly children, were killed. However, Ehsan’s denunciation may have been merely a self-interested denial that was intended to distance himself and others from the unpopular slayings.

In March 2015, Ehsan tweeted that his comrades were responsible for the assassination of Samiullah Afridi, the lawyer for Dr. Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden.

After the 2016 Easter Day massacre in a park in Lahore, Ehsan proudly claimed the slayings, saying the “target was Christians.” At least 72 people, mostly women and children, were killed and more than 300 were wounded in the blast.

A dangerous jihadist group with global ambitions

Ehsan’s now former group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, threatens the Pakistani state while supporting allied regional and global jihadist groups.

The leadership of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is known to have ties to multiple jihadist organizations operating in the region. Omar Khalid al Khurasani, one of its top leaders, is closely linked to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri. Khurasani has called for the imposition of sharia law and the establishment of a global caliphate. He has also said that a primary goal of the Pakistani Taliban is to obtain nuclear weapons. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, Taliban commander wants Pakistan’s nukes, global Islamic caliphate and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar celebrates 9/11 attack.]

After the US killed Mullah Mansour, the emir of the Afghan Taliban, in a May 2016 drone strike in Pakistan, Ehsan mourned his death and urged Muslims to intensify their efforts to wage jihad.

“With regret the Muslim world has lost a great mentor,” Ehsan said after Mansour’s death.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar also celebrated the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US, saying it will continue to wage jihad until a global caliphate is established. This is a goal shared by al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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8 Comments

  • sami says:

    Both the Pakistani Taliban and Jamat ul Ahrar are in Afghanistan….

  • Arjuna says:

    Backstabbing and dirty tricks in the Land of the Pure? No. Impossible!
    Simply saying sorry buys you absolution from kidnapping children. What are the Pakistanis promising him? Where’s his family? Can’t he help US access Zawahiri? Where is Zawahiri right this second?
    That last sentence reminds me of the AQ-IS merger discussions taking place right now. That will be a big deal when/if it happens.

    • sami says:

      Forget Zahwahiri as he might be dead now…. need to eliminate the leader of AQIS who is an Indian & might be living in Afghanistan or India

      • Arjuna says:

        Karachi.
        That’s where Z is and that’s where AQIS is based.
        That’s where Karachi Dockyard was planned and
        where Karachi Dockyard is located (for you Pakistanis).
        Start in Orangi Town and Mowach Goth and work down.
        Get Hamza and Saif in the sweep, please? They need justice.

  • muslim says:

    why do these guys always name themselves from the places they are from? why dont they just use their actual names? funnily enough prophet muhammad (saw) said that the khawarij will be named after the places they are from. lol prophet muhammad (saw) did not name himself or have the nickname “al hijazi”.

  • Devendra Sood says:

    So, Now; Are the Paksitanis going to fry this cockraoch or give him a Masjid and a Madrasha to preach the peaceful sayings of munificent Islam?

  • Ron says:

    This terrorist has confirmed Jamat ul Ahrar links with Indian RAW and NDS. India under the shroud of Islamic terrorism has been killing innocent Pakistanis since long. Having a terrorist as their PM what can one expect from this nation. The only thing they are good at is dancing girls and open blatent lies. USA because of her own interests in order to tackle China is not doing anything against India which will be devastating for USA herself as Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires and US will have to pay.

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