Pakistan: A new Red Mosque is established in the tribal agencies

Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat.

Islamists take over a mosque in Mohmand as attacks against government troops continue in North Waziristan

Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province remains a cauldron of violence in the wake of the military assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad in mid-July. Attacks against government forces continue on a daily basis as North Waziristan remains the hub of Taliban and al Qaeda-directed violence against government security forces. In the Mohmand agency, a group of Islamists stormed a local mosque, renamed it the Lal Masjid, and pledged their support to the deposed leader of the original Red Mosque.

Mohmand Agency

The impact of the military assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, reached all the way to Mohmand agency, where the Taliban and allied Islamist groups have risen in power over the past several years. On Sunday, a force of about 100 “militants” occupied a mosque and shrine in the tribal agency and renamed it the Lal Masjid.

A local “militant” named Omar Khalid, who claimed to have 3,000 armed and trained fighters under his command, seized the mosque, denied links with the Taliban and al Qaeda while pledging allegiance Islamabad Red Mosque leader Ghazi Abdur Rashid. “If [the Taliban] come to us, we will welcome them,” said Khalid. “We will continue Ghazi Abdur Rashid’s mission even if it means sacrificing our lives.” Khalid also threatened to “use suicide bombers in self defence” if the new Red Mosque was raided. He seeks to “Islamize” the local tribes and plans establishing a “vice and virtue force.”

Tribal leaders in Mohmand have formed a jirga, or council, to discuss the “birth of the Taliban” in the agency. “We will meet tomorrow to take a collective decision (against the Sunday action of the local militants) and to shoulder the territorial responsibility under the Frontier Crimes Regulations,” a tribal leader told the Daily Times.

Mohmand agency borders the lawless Bajaur agency, where the pro-al Qaeda Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) openly rules after the Pakistani government cut a peace deal with Faqir Mohammed, the groups’ leader in the agency. The TNSM is known as the “Pakistani Taliban” and is the group behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. The TNSM sent over 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. The agency is known as a Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven, and hosts command and control nodes and training camps for al Qaeda.

North Waziristan Agency

As talks between the Taliban and the government have stalled, Taliban forces continue to attack government security forces in the region. Taliban attacks on Monday resulted in six soldiers killed and five wounded. The attacks included two roadside bombings and a rocket attack on a base near Miramshah. The Pakistani military responded with artillery and air strikes by Cobra helicopter gunships. Ten “miscreants” were reported killed during the operations.

The Pakistani military has come under repeated attacks by the Taliban over the course of July. The Daily Times reported 40 army and paramilitary soldiers have been killed and 52 wounded in suicide and rocket attacks in North Waziristan during July, however these numbers are clearly inaccurate. The two major attacks in North Waziristan, an ambush and a suicide bombing, combined with Monday’s attacks resulted in 47 killed and 47 wounded. There have been a spate of smaller engagements, including ambushes, roadside bomb attacks and rocket and mortar strikes that have killed or wounded scores more Pakistani security forces.

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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