Pakistani Taliban fighters under the command of Qari Hussain Mehsud stand alongside kidnapped Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak minutes before he was beheaded. Reuters photo.
Two senior Pakistani Taliban leaders had a disagreement over the handling of kidnapped Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak. The disagreement led to Stanczak’s gruesome beheading, which was videotaped by the Taliban and released to the public.
Stanczak was kidnapped in Attock on Sept. 28, 2008, by Taliban fighters under the command of Zakir Mehsud operating from the Arakzai tribal agency. Two of Stanczak’s drivers and one of the Taliban fighters were killed during the kidnapping. Attock is a district in Punjab province that borders the districts of Nowshera, Swabi, and Haripur in the Taliban insurgency-ridden Northwest Frontier Province.
The disagreement occurred between Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Qari Hussain Mehsud, a key lieutenant of Baitullah’s, according to a report from the region.
Baitullah sought to use Stanczak to obtain the release of several of his followers, while Qari Hussain, who had custody of Stanczak, sought the release of four members of the radical Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and an Uzbek, a Taliban source told The News. The move triggered Qari to execute Stanczak.
“A day before the beheading of the engineer [Stanczak], Baitullah sent his men to bring the captive but the Qari group did not agree and beheaded the captive the next day,” Mohammed, a Taliban spokesman for Zakir Mehsud told The News. “This forced Qari to behead the Polish engineer.” Zakir Mehsud is one of Qari’s lieutenants in the city of Darra Adam Khel in the Arakzai tribal agency.
Mohammed quoted Zakir as saying Qari’s decision to behead Stanczak was sound “as it would create fear amongst the nonbelievers. If we keep on sending such gifts to the Europeans and others, they would soon be compelled to flee the region,” Mohammed said. “If God wishes, people would see more and more beheadings of nonbelievers in the future.”
Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban commander in Arakzai, Khyber, and Peshawar who is behind the attacks on NATO’s supply lines in northwestern Pakistan, had hoped to get a teenager to behead Stanczak but the plan was called off due to the short amount of time to find a child, Mohammed said.
Several times in the past, the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have released videotapes of children and teenagers beheading captives.
The report of the disagreement between Baitullah and Qari became public just two days after a roadside bomb wounded Mullah Noor Sayyed Mehsud, a deputy of Baitullah’s, and killed another Taliban commander and wounded another leader. Noor was leaving a meeting of senior Taliban commanders in Makeen, Baitullah’s home town. There is no evidence that the two incidents are linked, but Qari is one of the few people who could pull off such an attack.
“The beheading of the Polish engineer by the Qari group will further deepen the already existing differences between the TTP [Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] and Qari Hussain,” Mohammed said.
Baitullah and Qari Hussain clashed in June 2007 after the latter’s foot soldiers launched a series of violent attacks on police in the tribal areas. Qari 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 incidents caused friction between the two Taliban leaders as Qari Hussain failed to obtain permission to conduct his campaign of terror. Baitullah retaliated by capturing 17 of Qari Hussain’s followers and threatening to kill them. The rift between the two leaders was quickly smoothed over during the summer of 2007, however, after the Taliban went on the offensive against the Pakistani military, government, and civilians in July of that year.
Background on Qari Hussain Mehsud
Qari Hussain Mehsud is a senior deputy to Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and an ally of al Qaeda as well as the Lashkar-e-Jahangvi and other extremist groups. He runs camps in South Waziristan that train children to become suicide bombers. Children as young as seven years old are indoctrinated to wage jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a video taken at one of his camps in Spinkai showed.
The Pakistani military demolished Qari’s suicide nursery during a short offensive against the Taliban in Spinkai in January 2008. The military launched a short operation 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 seized numerous documents and training materials in the demolished camp. In May, a senior Pakistani general described the previous camp as a suicide “factory” for children.
The Pakistani military reported that Qari was killed in January 2008, based on intercepted Taliban communications. The military later reiterated that claim during the tour of the Spinkai camp on May 18, 2008.
Five days later, Hussain mocked the military during a press conference held at a government school building in South Waziristan. “I am alive, don’t you see me?” Hussain taunted. Hussain rebuilt his child training camps in South Waziristan sometime in the spring or summer of 2008.
In January 2009, Qari openly held a press conference in Peshawar, the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province. During the press conference, he released a 40-minute propaganda tape showing statements of suicide bombers and the aftermath of their attacks inside Pakistan. Child suicide bombers are shown praising suicide attacks and saying attacking infidels is their religious duty.
“Suicide bombers are the atomic weapons of Muslims because Muslims do not have the latest weapons to fight enemies who are committing atrocities against Muslims in Kashmir, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq,” one of the young men said.
Qari’s suicide bombers took credit for attacks against Pakistani security and intelligence forces, including the March 2008 double suicide attack on the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore (26 killed and more than 160 wounded) and the September 2007 attack on an Inter-Service Intelligence agency bus and a military bazaar in Rawalpindi (25 killed, 68 wounded).