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Captured Taliban commander killed in combat in Swat



Abu-Faraj.JPG

Dawn reports on the death of a dangerous Taliban commander who was captured in Swat on Sept. 22 after being "seriously wounded." According to the military, Abu Faraj, a deputy to Mullah Fazlullah and a commander notorious for training and plotting suicide attacks, was killed during a clash in Swat while accompanying troops:

In Swat, 13 insurgents were killed in clashes with security forces on Thursday.

According to Swat media centre, security personnel came under fire when they raided a Taliban hideout in Sigram area of Koza Bandai. During an exchange of fire, 10 militants and one soldier were killed.

Detained militant commander Mohammad Naseem alias Abu Faraj was with the troops and he was also killed in the clash. Abu Faraj, a close aide of Maulana Fazlullah, was captured by security forces in September.

Here is how the military described Abu Faraj on the day he was captured, again via Dawn:

Abu Faraj is said to have trained bombers for suicide missions and was close to Taliban Swat cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who led thousands of followers in a two-year uprising to enforce Islamic law in the former tourist district.

The military announced the arrest of the commander as an 'Eid gift from the army for the people of Swat'. Colonel Akhtar Abbas said Abu Faraj was an expert in making suicide jackets and training people to carry out attacks. He was trained in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are fighting against Western troops, Abbas added.

Officials said he prepared improvised-explosive device attacks and was also wanted in connection with two bank robberies.

This is all strange, to say the least. Abu Faraj isn't the kind of Taliban commander you'd want to give even the hint of daylight. While it is possible that Abu Faraj was accompanying troops to exploit real time intelligence, there are other ways of making this happen rather than dragging him into the field and along with a combat operation. Another possibility is that Abu Faraj was quietly released, exchanged for captive security personnel, or escaped custody, and then he was subsequently killed during the clash in Swat.

This will very likely be one of those mysteries in Pakistan that will never be solved, but serves to raise more questions about exactly what is going on with the thousands of Taliban leaders and fighters in Pakistani custody.



READER COMMENTS: "Captured Taliban commander killed in combat in Swat"

Posted by Craig at December 5, 2009 2:35 PM ET:

Thanks for this report. I think it's helpful to be reminded that military reports from the Af-Pak region are often muddled, confusing, and best not taken at face value.

Posted by jayc at December 5, 2009 4:34 PM ET:

Perhaps the Pakistanis have taken a page from the Indians. Our good friends from New Delhi refer to this as a "fake encounter." Capture an ultra, then rub him out under "warlike" circumstances. Ask the Kashmiris, they see this a lot.

Posted by Abheek at December 6, 2009 12:47 AM ET:

Jayc- If your comment are out of sympathies for the Kashmiri terrorist, then those are misplaced. Killing those butchers upfront is the right thing to do - saves lot of time, effort, money and keeps morale of the forces high. See what is happening to Kasab trial - there is video recording avlbl but the pathetic judcial system still is taking so long to declare him convict. In other cases, there have been instances where terrorist kidnap minister's daughter or such other hvt and then we are blackmailed into releasing the terrorist ...

Posted by Civy at December 6, 2009 4:47 PM ET:

This tactic could also be used by lower ranking ISI who are trying to do the right thing, but fear reprisals from Taliban supporters higher up. Stage or plan a release, but make sure the offender gets a nice long burst from a 7.62-slurping MG42 when running away. It affords one plausible denial. Is this consistent with what is known about the internal politics of the ISI?