Pakistan places bounties on Baitullah and other senior Taliban leaders

The Pakistani government has put out bounties for the capture or death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and 10 of his senior commanders operating in the lawless tribal agencies. Three senior Taliban leaders in North and South Waziristan were noticeably excluded, indicating that the government does not intend to take on these warlords.

The government announced the bounties in an advertisement in Pakistani newspapers.

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, topped the list at an estimated price tag of $615,000.

Faqir Mohammed, the leader of the Taliban in Bajaur, came in second at $181,000.

Hakeemullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain Mehsud of South Waziristan, Omar Khalid and Qari Shakeel of Mohmand, and Commander Tariq Afridi of Darra Adam Khel each command a $123,000 bounty [see list below].

Qari Zia Rahman and Waliur Rahman of Bajaur, Fazal Saeed Utezai of Kurram, and Mufti Ilyas of Darra Adam Khel rounded out the list at $61,500 each.

The bounties for Baitullah and his deputies come a month after the government issued bounties for Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah, his deputy Shah Doran, spokesman and military commander Muslim Khan, and 18 other leaders from the region. So far, those bounties have not led to the arrest or capture of the leaders.

Both Fazlullah and Shah Doran are rumored to have been killed, but the reports have not been confirmed. The government has arrested Falzullah’s family.

Siraj Haqqani, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and Mullah Nazir are absent from the wanted list

Baitullah is the primary target of an ongoing operation in South Waziristan [see LWJ report, Analysis: Waziristan operation to focus on Baitullah Mehsud]. In its briefings, the military has singled out Baitullah and has not mentioned important Taliban leaders Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadar or the powerful Haqqani family. Siraj Haqqani, the son of respected Mujahideen commander Jalaluddin, commands the Haqqani network’s military.

Nazir, Bahadar, and the Haqqanis are not included in the operation even though each host their share of training camps and safe houses for al Qaeda and allied terror movements and conduct attacks against Pakistani security forces. The groups also conduct cross-border attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Nazir and Bahadar’s forces fight mainly in the southern and southeastern Afghanistan provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni, and Uruzgan, while the Haqqanis are active in Khost, Paktika, and Paktia. Siraj Haqqani, the son of famed mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin, is one of the most wanted men in Afghanistan, as his network has been responsible for some of the most deadly attacks in the country.

Nazir and Bahadar have formed an alliance with Baitullah at the behest of Osama bin Laden, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and Jalaluddin Haqqani. In February, Nazir, Bahadar, and Baitullah formed the United Mujahideen Council and vowed to pool forces to fight the Pakistani state if the military moved into the tribal areas. The council also agreed to continue the jihad in Afghanistan and to strike at the US and India.

Because they have opposed fighting the Pakistani military and prefer to focus their attention on Afghanistan, Nazir and Bahadar are considered “pro-government Taliban” by the Pakistani military and government. The military has cut peace deals with Nazir and Bahadar in the past. Despite the formation of the United Mujahideen Council and the declaration against the Pakistani state, these deals are still in effect. The Pakistani military also openly supported Nazir as he sought to eject elements of the Islamic Jihad Union, an Uzbek terror group, from his tribal areas.

The Haqqanis have been virtually untouchable. The group operates openly in North Waziristan and runs a network of madrassas in the region.

And the Haqqanis are widely supported by the Pakistani military. In May 2008, General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s senior military officer, was overheard by the CIA referring to Jalaluddin Haqqani as “a strategic asset.” The CIA also found evidence linking the Pakistani military and intelligence service to last summer’s suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

The Haqqanis are well-respected by all of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban groups. The Haqqanis have mediated tribal disputes between Baitullah and Nazir and Bahadar, as well as settled the contentious issue between Nazir and the Uzbeks.

The Pakistani military is seeking to cut deals with Nazir, Bahadar, and the Haqqanis to keep them on the sidelines as the Army takes on Baitullah’s forces in the upcoming operation.

The bounties and their targets

$615,000 Bounty:

Baitullah Mehsud is the overall leader of the Pakistani Taliban. He has led a campaign of suicide and military attacks against the Pakistani military, government, and civilians for more than two years. His forces have defeated the Pakistani Army during two offensives in South Waziristan since 2007.

$181,000 Bounty:

Faqir Mohammed is a senior deputy to Baitullah and leads the Taliban in Bajaur. His forces have defeated the Pakistani Army in Bajaur in two offensives in 2008 and fought the military to a stalemate earlier this year. He is a close ally to Ayman al Zawahiri, and Bajaur serves as an al Qaeda command and control center for operations in northeastern Afghanistan.

$123,000 Bounty:

Hakeemullah Mehsud is a senior deputy in Baitullah Mehsud’s Pakistani Taliban movement, and is a candidate to be his successor. He commands Taliban forces in Arakzai, Kurram, and Khyber agencies. He has taken credit for several high-profile terror attacks in Lahore, Peshawar, and other major cities.

Qari Hussain Mehsud is Baitullah’s deputy and cousin. He runs suicide training camps for children in Spinkai in South Waziristan. The military destroyed one of these camps during a brief operation in January 2008 but Qari reopened the camp months later. He is considered a candidate to take over the Pakistani Taliban in the event of Baitullah’s death.

Commander Tariq Afridi leads the Commander Tariq group. He is a deputy to Hakeemullah and leads what is considered the most powerful force in the city of Darra Adam Khel. His group was behind the kidnapping and the eventual beheading of a Polish engineer earlier this year.

Omar Khalid, who is also known as Abdul Wali, leads the Taliban in Mohmand. He is a deputy in Baitullah Mehsud’s Taliban movement. He is considered one of the most effective and powerful leaders in the tribal areas after Baitullah and Hakeemullah Mehsud.

Qari Shakeel is a deputy commander to Omar Khalid in the Mohmand tribal agency.

$61,500 Bounty:

Qari Zia Rahman is an al Qaeda leader who operates in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal agency as well as in Afghanistan’s Nuristan and Kunar provinces. He is allied with Faqir Mohammed, the leader of the Taliban in Bajaur, as well as with overall Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Osama bin Laden. Rahman’s fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations. He commands a brigade in al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army, or the Lashkar al Zil, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

Waliur Rahman is a deputy military commander to Faqi Mohammed in Bajaur. He leads the Jaish-i-Islami Pakistan, a Taliban subgroup. He has led negotiations with the tribes and also is reported to have been named as a possible successor to Baitullah.

Fazal Saeed Utezai is a deputy to Hakeemullah and leads Taliban fighters in the Kurram tribal agency. His forces have been behind some of the worst sectarian violence against the Shia tribes.

Mufti Ilyas commands Taliban forces in Darra Adam Khel and is a deputy to Hakeemullah Mehsud. He formed a group that is assigned to assassinate Shia leaders.

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

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