4 Threat Matrix: Mullah Nazir orders all Mehsud tribesmen to leave Wana

Written by LWJ Staff on December 2, 2012 3:46 AM to 4 Threat Matrix

Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2012/12/mullah_nazir_orders_all_mehsud.php

Mullah Nazir, a senior Taliban commander and self-professed member of al Qaeda, has ordered all Mehsud tribesmen living in the town of Wana in South Waziristan to vacate the area by Dec. 5 or face retribution. Nazir, who is also a prominent Ahmedzai Wazir tribal leader, made no distinction between internally displaced Mehsud tribesmen and Mehsud militants.

On Nov. 29, Mullah Nazir survived a deadly suicide attack as he and his associates were visiting the Rustam bazaar in Wana. At least six militants were killed and over a dozen others were injured in the attack. Nazir reportedly suffered wounds to his face and legs, but was expected to make a full recovery.

Two days later, loudspeakers announced Nazir's ultimatum at many of the main population centers in the Wana sub-division -- including the towns of Karikot, Shakai, Azam Warsak, Spin, and Toi Khulla, according to the Express Tribune. Those who failed to abide by his order will be fined 1 million rupees (approximately $10,365) and have their house in Wana demolished by Nazir's Aman Lashkar, according to the same report.

Mullah Nazir heads a 120-member 2007 "peace committee" (Aman Lashkar) of Ahmedzai Wazir tribesmen, which was initially assigned to evict Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) militants and other foreign fighters from the area, Dawn reported.

Mullah Nazir's Taliban faction is one of four major Taliban groups that have joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al Qaeda late last year. The Shura-e-Murakeba also includes Hafiz Gul Bahadar's group; the Haqqani Network; and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP), which is led by Mehsud tribesmen Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US in Afghanistan, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the suicide attack that aimed to kill Nazir on Nov. 29, Nazir clearly holds the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan organization responsible. The TTP faction is largely dominated by Mehsud tribesmen from South Waziristan, while Nazir and his Aman committee are comprised of rival Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen. This is the first intense clash between Nazir and rival militants since the summer of 2009, when the Pakistani military signed a peace agreement with Nazir stipulating that he would not shelter al Qaeda or members of the TTP, which were based in the Mehsud tribal areas of South Waziristan. The Pakistani government launched a military operation against the TTP in October 2009, but left Nazir's areas untouched. Nazir has continued to allow some elements of the TTP, al Qaeda, and other terror groups safe haven in his tribal areas. [For more information, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda-linked South Waziristan Taliban commander wounded in suicide attack.]

The Nov. 29 attack and Mullah Nazir's ultimatum have rekindled a longstanding rivalry between the Ahmedzai Wazir and Mehsud tribes, and also exposed the enduring rift among militant organizations operating in South Waziristan. More from Dawn:

Tribal affairs and militancy expert Rahimullah Yousufzai warned earlier that Thursday's suicide attack could spark a new wave of bloodshed in the restive tribal belt."It is difficult to say who could be behind the latest attack because Mullah Nazir has problems with Uzbeks, IMU and the TTP," Yousufzai told news agency AFP. "The enmity with the TTP will rise further if Nazir's group finds TTP's involvement in the attack."

Since both Mullah Nazir and the TTP are closely aligned with the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Taliban group, the notorious Haqqani Network, and the Afghan Taliban movement led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, representatives from these various militant groups will most likely attempt to broker a resolution to the infighting between Nazir and the TTP.

Tensions within Nazir's tribe and with the Pakistani government

Nazir has long resented the presence of Central Asian militants in his territory, especially Uzbek fighters aligned with the TTP, and those foreign fighters allied with the Yargulkhel clan of the Zalikhel subtribe, part of Nazir's own Ahmadzai Wazir tribe. Since 2004, tensions have remained sporadically high between Nazir's Darikhel subtribe (some reports claim Nazir is from the lesser known Khakakhel subtribe, still others label him a Ghulamkhel) and elements of the other eight sub-tribal components that make up the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe. These tensions came to a head in 2007 when Uzbek militants allied with the Yargulkhel assassinated first an al Qaeda commander affiliated with Mullah Nazir and then a number of local tribal elders.

In March 2007, Uzbek fighters killed Sheik Asadullah, a Saudi who was a close affiliate of the Darikhel and Mullah Nazir. Asadullah was the successor to Ahmed Saeed Abdur Rehman Khaddar al Canadi, an Egyptian-born Canadian known as a financial administrator for al Qaeda; al Canadi was killed near Angor Adda in October 2004. [See external link (.pdf) for more details.] A short time later, Uzbek fighters and Yargukhel tribesmen killed two brothers and a son of a local Darikhel tribal elder, Sadullah Khan, sparking a ferocious intra-tribal clash and continuing tensions.

A grand jirga held in March 2011 between the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe and the Pakistani government helped to defuse hostilities among the sub-tribes, and to ease tensions between the government and some of the subtribes, such as the Yargulkhel. Previously, the Yargulhkel had repeatedly attacked elements of the Pakistani security services and government.