Taliban commander Qari Hussain survived military operation in Waziristan

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

A senior Taliban commander thought to have been killed in a Pakistani military operation in South Waziristan in January has turned up alive. Qari Hussain spoke to the media on May 23, just after Baitullah Mehsud said the Taliban would continue to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Hussain mocked the reports of his death at a press conference held at a government school building in South Waziristan. “I am alive, don’t you see me?” Hussain said.

Qari Hussain is a senior lieutenant to Baitullah, the overall commander of the Pakistani Taliban. Hussain is a senior Taliban commander in the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan. He runs suicide training camps that indoctrinate young boys between 9 and 12 years old. He is also described as a leading ideologue for the Taliban. “His extremist views are popular among Arabs, Uzbeks, and Afghan fighters,” The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Baitullah and Hussain had a falling out in June 2007 after Hussain launched a series of violent attacks on police in the tribal areas. Hussain’s followers conducted beheadings and assassinations of tribal leaders in South Waziristan and the settled district of Tank. He was behind the attack on the home of the political agent of Khyber Agency, which resulted in the death of the agent’s six family members and seven guests.

The incident resulted in clashes between the two Taliban leaders as Hussain failed to obtain permission to conduct his campaign of terror. Baitullah retaliated by capturing 17 of Hussain’s followers and threatened to kill them.

While the incident prompted some Pakistani analysts to predict the fracturing and demise of the Taliban, the rift was smoothed over during the summer after the Taliban went on the offensive against the Pakistani military, government, and civilians. Hussain and Baitullah attended a jirga, or tribal council, that was formed to help free more than 300 Pakistani troops captured by the Taliban in South Waziristan.

Hussain’s home in Kotkai was destroyed by the Pakistani military in January. The Pakistani military launched an operation in South Waziristan on Jan. 24 after Taliban forces commanded by Baitullah overran two military outposts and conducted attacks against other forts and military convoys in the tribal agency. The military intercepted Taliban communications that indicated Hussain was killed in the assault.

The Pakistani military reported Hussain may have been killed back in January, then reiterated that claim after taking reporters to one of Hussain’s suicide camps in Spinkai in South Waziristan on May 18.

“It was like a factory that had been recruiting nine to 12-year-old boys, and turning them into suicide bombers,” said Major General Tariq Khan, the commander of Pakistan’s 14 Division, which led the operation in South Waziristan.

“The computers, other equipment and literature seized from the place … give graphic details of the training process in this so-called ‘nursery,'” Dawn reported. “There are videos of young boys carrying out executions, a classroom where 10- to 12-year olds are sitting in formations, with white band of Quranic verses wrapped around their forehead, and there are training videos to show how improvised explosive devices are made and detonated.”

Bill Roggio :Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.