Uzbeks vs the Taliban; casualties rise as Pakistani Army pounds Uzbek positions
The fighting between Taliban-back Uzbeks and al Qaeda backed Taliban in South Waziristan continues into its third day. The Nation puts the number killed at 102 Uzbeks of Tahir Yuldashev’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and their local Taliban supporters, and 25 local Taliban lead by Mullah Nazir, including 9 civilians. Over 70 Uzbeks are reported to have been captured.
As we noted early yesterday, the ‘pro-government tribals’ lead by Mullah Nazir are actually a Taliban group that supports the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has an interest in labeling Mullah Nazir’s fighters as pro-government to provide evidence the Waziristan Accord is working. “It is the result of government policy that the local tribesmen are acting against foreign militants,” said Interior Minister Sherpao, in an interview with the Associated Press.
But the official Pakistani line that the local tribes are enforcing the ‘peace agreement’ is false. As the reporting in the Pakistani newspapers notes repeatedly, Mullah Nazir turned his forces on the Uzbeks only after the Uzbeks were accused of killing Saiful Adel, a mid level al Qaeda commander. “Maulvi Nazir supports the Arabs and suspected that the Uzbeks had murdered Adil,” Pakistani officials told the Daily Times. Nazir was defending his al Qaeda Arab allies against the Uzbeks.
The Uzbeks, on the other hand, have their local support. “Uzbek militants are being supported by key commanders of the late Taliban leader Nek Mohammad,” reports the Daily Times. Nek was an influential and fierce Taliban commander killed by the Pakistani Army during the fighting in South Waziristan in June of 2004. Taliban commanders Noor Islam and Maulavi Abbas are backing the Uzbeks.
Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda allied group, is believed to have escaped the Taliban assault on his madrassa. “He was nearly caught”, a senior Pakistani official told Dawn, “He is desperately running around to muster support in Mirali” in North Waziristan.
“The militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas support the Taliban insurgency against coalition forces in Afghanistan so it is not in the interests of the Taliban to have them fighting each other,” the BBC correctly notes. It has been rumored that Baitullah Mehsud “rushed to the affected area for reconciliation” Nazir’s forces and the Uzbeks. Earlier, it was reported that Siraj Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the military commander of the Afghan Taliban, along with his aide, Bakhta Jan, have traveled to Wana to settle the fighting.
Numerous reports from Waziristan indicate the Pakistani military engaged Uzbek positions, using mortar and artillery fire from a base near Wana. “Former FATA security chief Brigadier Mehmood Shah said the government should take advantage of the situation by covertly or overtly supporting the tribesmen,” notes Dawn.
By providing artillery support to Nazir’s forces against the Uzbeks, the Pakistani government has sided with the Taliban who support Arab al Qaeda fighters against Uzbek terrorists backed by elements of the local Taliban. The Pakistani government has involved itself in an internal power struggle withing the al Qaeda / Taliban jihadist movement in an attempt to portray the failed Waziristan Accord as a successful model of governance.
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