The Pakistani government has drastically raised the bounty for Swat Taliban chieftain Mullah Fazlullah and a host of leaders operating in the insurgency-plagued district in the Northwest Frontier Province. The move comes as the military claims to have secured the Taliban stronghold of Peochar and to be close to overtaking the main town of Mingora.
The bounty for Fazlullah, which was announced yesterday, was increased from 5 million rupees ($61,650) to 50 million rupees ($616,500). The government also announced bounties for 20 other Swat Taliban leaders, including top tier leaders Muslim Khan, Shah Doran, and Ibn Amin, who have 15 million rupee ($185,000) bounties on their heads.
Muslim Khan is a Taliban spokesman and a senior military commander in the main town of Mingora. Shah Doran is Fazlullah’s deputy who is notorious for preaching radical anti-government sermons on the Taliban’s radio programs. Ibn Amin is the leader of the Tora Bora Brigade, one of the six known brigades in al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army. The Tora Bora Brigade has an estimated 1,500 fighters and participated in the invasion of neighboring Buner [see LWJ report, Terrorists rally in Swat, march through region].
The government distributed fliers with photos of 18 of the commanders and urged residents of Swat to turn the men in. Other Taliban leaders identified on the poster include Mehmood Khan, Akbar Hussain, Sher Muhammad Kasab, Sirajuddin, Bakht Farzand, Mian Gul Ghafoor, Nisar Ahmed, Laldin (also known as Baray Mian), Anwarullah, Bashir Ahmed, and Rashid Ahmed.
The government has not released bounties for senior Taliban leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud, Hakeemullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain Mehsud, Faqir Mohammed, Omar Khalid, and others, despite their being active in targeting security forces and conducting terror attacks against civilian and military targets alike.
Swat Taliban commanders appear to have escaped the Swat offensive
The bounty on Fazlullah was raised one day after Iftikhar Hussain, the Information Minister for the Northwest Frontier Province, announced that Fazlullah and several other Taliban commanders were killed during the ongoing Swat operation. But there is no evidence that Fazlullah is dead, and in fact the military denied today he was killed during the operation.
So far, the military has claimed that four significant Taliban commanders have been killed in Swat since the operation began in the beginning of May. On May 21, the military claimed a commander named Abu Tariq was killed. But Abu Tariq, who is actually Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan, talked to the media that same day and has since granted several interviews. Khan also doubles as a Taliban military commander in Mingora.
The military also claimed another commander named Rashid Lala was killed during a clash in Mingora. On May 21, Lala contacted the news media to prove he wasn’t killed. Both Khan and Lala serve as “general officer equivalents” in the Swat Taliban military, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
Two other commanders named Malanga and Riaz were reported killed on May 18 during fighting in Takhtaband near Mingora. The military claimed it has the body of Malanga. The Taliban have neither confirmed nor denied their deaths.
The Pakistani military and government have a poor record for accuracy in reporting the deaths of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. Since January 2008, nine senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been reported killed inside Pakistan. But of those nine, only three have been confirmed dead.
Moreover, all three of the dead al Qaeda leaders were killed in US cross-border Predator airstrikes, not during Pakistani offensive operations. The other six leaders that Pakistani sources have reported as killed (Ayman al Zawahiri, Baitullah Mehsud, Faqir Mohammed, Mustafa Abu Yazid, Adam Gadahn, and Qari Hussain Mehsud) have appeared, after their reported deaths, in the media or on al Qaeda propaganda tapes.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.