Qari Zainuddin Mehsud, a rival to Baitullah Mehsud, was shot and killed in Dera Ismail Khan. Image from Geo News.
While the Pakistani military is carrying out its offensive in South Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud succeeded in murdering his main tribal rival.
Qari Zainuddin Mehsud, a clansman of Baitullah, was shot and killed in Dera Ismail Khan. An aide to Zainuddin was wounded during the attack.
Zainuddin was killed by a man named Gulbadeen Mehsud, according to Geo News. Gulbadeen escaped after shooting Zainuddin and his aide. Gulbadeen is from Makeen in South Waziristan, the main base for Baitullah’s Taliban movement.
Zainuddin made a splash in the international media over the last month after he and his ally Haji Turkistani Bhittani voiced opposition to Baitullah. Zainuddin granted numerous interviews in which he declared that Baitullah’s targeting of the Pakistani state was against Islam. He also claimed that Baitullah killed his predecessor, Taliban commander Abdullah Mehsud.
“The whole Muslim world should come together because all infidels have come together against Islam. Whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnya, Muslims must protect ourselves,” Zainuddin told The Telegraph earlier this month. “But we cannot go to Afghanistan these days because we have had to deal with Baitullah.”
The Pakistani state supported Zainuddin and is reported to have provided him weapons even though he vowed to continue fighting against Coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan.
Both Zainuddin and Bhittani claimed they had more than 3,000 Taliban fighters under their command and were attempting to recruit more in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, two districts that border South Waziristan. But a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Zainuddin was inflating his influence and capabilities.
In his recruiting campaign, Zainuddin used images of Abdullah Mehsud on posters. Zainuddin took control of Abdullah’s forces after he was killed in a shootout with Pakistani security forces in Zhob. Abdullah was released from the US detention facility at Guantanmo Bay and shortly after began fighting US forces in Afghanistan.
Zainuddin and Bhittan battled with Baitullah’s Taliban forces in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan in a tit-for-tat murder campaign. Reports indicate Zainuddin’s fighters killed 30 of Baitullah’s men, including his brother. Zainuddin claimed to have driven Baitullah’s followers from Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.
Zainuddin’s influence in the Mehsud tribe was inflated. He met with tribal leaders in an effort to get them to drop support for Baitullah. But his plea was rejected by the Mehsud elders. Zainuddin was seen as an instrument of the Pakistani state, and his willingness to back the government after it killed his predecessor raised serious questions.
While Zainuddin fancied himself a major player in the Taliban movement, both he and Bhittani were excluded from meeting with a senior delegation of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders to discuss the military’s operation in South Waziristan. Among those in attendance were Siraj Haqqani, Abu Yahya al Libi, and Abdul Haq.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.