Commander of Taliban in South Waziristan detonated hand grenade during raid in Baluchistan
Abdullah Mehsud, one of the most powerful leaders of the Taliban in South Waziristan, has been killed during a raid in the southern district of Zhob in Baluchistan province. The Taliban commander killed himself by detonating a hand grenade as “a team of Law-Enforcement Agencies (LEA) conducted a raid on the house of a Jamait-e-Ulema Islam (JUI)’s local leader,” the Kuwaiti News Agency reported. Abdullah’s death has been confirmed Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, The News reported today.
Several other “militants” were killed in the explosion, while Abdullah’s brothers, Abdul Rahman Mehsud and Muhammad Azam, were captured along with a local Taliban leader, The News reported. The Kuwaiti News Agency reported that the brother and nephew of a Jamait-e-Ulema Islam (Fazl) leader were captured.
The Jamait-e-Ulema Islam (Fazl) is a principal party in the Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA), the primary Islamist opposition party in Pakistan which is led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (Fazl) recently sponsored a gathering of 10,000 supporters of slain Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah in Baluchistan province.
Abdullah Mehsud, born Noor Alam, was a member of the Mehsud clan in South Waziristan, and was a clansman of Baitullah Mehsud, the most powerful commander in the tribal agency. Abdullah fought against the U.S. and the Northern Alliance during the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and surrendered to U.S. forces in Kunduz in December 2001. He spent 25 months in custody at Guantanamo Bay, and was later released to the Pakistani government. Abdullah then returned to South Waziristan, where he rebuilt his Taliban cadre and reinitiated attacks against Coalition forces in Afghanistan and the Pakistani government in the Northwest Frontier Province and beyond. Abdullah was believed to have commanded 5,000 Taliban foot soldiers.
The Pakistani government signed “peace deals” with the Taliban in South Waziristan in 2005 and 2006, but Abdullah continued to consolidate his power in the region. In the spring of 2007, Abdullah was implicated by Interior Minister Sherpao as being behind the flood of suicide attacks across the country. One of the suicide attacks targeted Sherpao in his home district of Charsadda in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Pakistani government had a warrant out for his arrest but failed to execute it until today.
Abdullah’s death comes as the Pakistani military has fought back against the Taliban in North Waziristan. Fifty-four Taliban fighters have been killed in clashes in North Waziristan since Saturday. The attacks were initiated by the Taliban, however. Well over 100 Pakistani soldiers, paramilitary troops and police have been killed since the Taliban and al Qaeda stepped up attacks in the wake of the government’s raid on the Taliban-supporting Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in the capital of Islamabad.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.