A terror alliance based out of the South Waziristan and Arakzai tribal agencies took credit for the June 9 suicide assault on the Pearl Continental Hotel in a high security zone in Peshawar.
Hakeemullah Mehsud, the cousin of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, and a group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigade have both claimed responsibility for the deadly attack that has killed 17 people and destroyed a large section of the hotel.
Hakeemullah teamed up with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Omar group and carried out the attack from the lawless city of Darra Adam Khel, according to a report in Adnkronos International. The attack was allegedly carried out because the Taliban believed the US was running intelligence operations from the hotel.
Hakeemullah has vowed to strike in Pakistan’s major cities to avenge the military operation against the Taliban in Swat. He took credit for the May 27 complex suicide assault on a police and intelligence headquarters in a secured region in Lahore, and vowed to conduct more. “Residents should leave the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Multan,” he said, warning that government institutions will be targeted.
Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and the Fedayeen-e-Islam
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has integrated with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has an extensive network in Pakistan and serves as the muscle for terror attacks.
Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has a strong presence in South Waziristan, where it formed alliances with the Baitullah and Hakeemullah Mehsud group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and al Qaeda, and created a group called the Fedayeen-e-Islam. The Fedayeen-e-Islam took credit for the deadly September 2008 suicide attack on the Islamabad Marriott Hotel and the March 2009 storming of a police station in Lahore. These attacks were similar to the most recent suicide assault in Peshawar.
Senior leaders of the Fedayeen-e-Islam include Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior deputy to Baitullah who trains child suicide bombers; Qari Mohammed Zafar, the operational commander of the September 1008 attack on the Islamabad Marriott; Asmatullah Moaviya, another senior aide to Baitullah who was reportedly arrested in Mianwali in Punjab province; and Rana Afzal.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigade and Egyptian Islamic Jihad
The Abdullah Azzam Brigade is a little-known outfit that, until yesterday, had yet to claim an attack in Pakistan. A spokesman named Amir Muawiya took credit for yesterday’s attack and said the Taliban and al Qaeda shura directed that all future strikes would be claimed by this group. Amir Muawiya is a leader in the Commander Tariq Group based out of Darra Adam Khel.
Abdullah Azzam co-founded al Qaeda along with Osama bin Laden. Azzam was killed in a bombing in 1989. Osama is widely believed to have killed his mentor after Azzam disagreed with making al Qaeda an international terror group.
Previously the Abdullah Azzam Brigade took credit for attacks at resorts in Egypt, including the deadly July 2005 attack at Sharm al Sheikh that killed 88 people. The brigade was formed to conduct attacks in Syria and Egypt, but likely moved its operations to Pakistan’s border areas after a brutal crackdown by the Egyptian government. Thought to be manned largely by Egyptians, the Abdullah Azzam Brigade is an offshoot of Ayman al Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
Egyptian Islamic Jihad is known to base its operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas. In October 2008, Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, was among 21 Taliban and al Qaeda operatives killed in a US Predator airstrike on a Taliban safe house in Mir Ali in North Waziristan.
The Arakzai terror alliance
The Omar Group is one of several Taliban outfits based out of Darra Adam Khel in Arakzai tribal agency. Hakeemullah is the Taliban commander in Arakzai, where late last year he declared an Islamic State.
Other groups based out of Arakzai are the Commander Tariq Group, which is considered the most powerful outfit and appears to have been rolled into the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, and the Ghazi Force, which has claimed credit for recent attacks against security forces in Islamabad. The Ghazi Force is named after Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, the brother of former Red Mosque leader Maulana Abdullah Aziz. Ghazi was killed when Pakistani troops assaulted the Red Mosque in July 2007.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.