Just days after negating a peace agreement with the government, the Taliban in North Waziristan have threatened violence against anyone who considers cooperating with the Pakistani government.
Taliban fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadar distributed threatening pamphlets, known as night letters, in the main bazaar in the town of Miramshah, warning locals not to cooperate with the Pakistani military and government in any way.
“If a tribe or a village organizes a peace jirga [committee], then we will kill the leaders,” the night letter read, according to a translation provided to The Long War Journal. “We will not hesitate to use suicide attacks in response.”
Tribes have been forbidden to hold gatherings larger than five people, and any meeting held with more than five people would be considered a peace jirga.
The Taliban also forbade locals from visiting government offices or entering the Frontier Corps headquarters in Miramshah.
Bahadar, the overall Taliban commander in North Waziristan, broke off a 16-month-old peace agreement with the government last week after his forces ambushed a military convoy and slaughtered 27 Pakistani troops. Bahadar has demanded that the military withdraw from the Taliban-controlled agency and also that the military put an end to US Predator strikes in the tribal areas.
The military and government officials have denied that the peace agreement was voided, and have blamed “miscreants,” or foreign al Qaeda members, for attempting to incite fighting in the agency. The military openly stated it did not desire to fight in North Waziristan and said it would only retaliate for attacks against its forces.
The Pakistani military has refrained from ground operations in North Waziristan but has launched several air strikes against Taliban camps in the tribal agency. Today, six Taliban fighters were reported killed during airstrikes on “Taliban hideouts” in the Data Khel region, which is known to host al Qaeda training camps. Since last year, the US has conducted at least two airstrikes in Data Khel.
Today’s strikes may have been in retaliation for a Taliban attack on a camp in Miramshah earlier in the day. No casualties were reported in the attack.
On July 3, seven Taliban fighters were reported killed during airstrikes in Wacha Bibi and Degan near the border with South Waziristan. The strikes took place near the site of the ambush of the Pakistani military convoy last week that killed 27 troops.
South Waziristan operation ebbs
Tensions in North Waziristan have risen since the military announced it was targeting overall Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan. Bahadar signed an agreement with Baitullah and South Waziristan Taliban warlord Mullah Nazir to back each other in case of government action in the tribal areas.
In the middle of June, the military began moving forces forward and began clearing a portion of a main road leading to Wana, but since then the military has fallen back on launching airstrikes against Baitullah’s hideouts. The US has weighed in against Baitullah, conducting five Predator attacks against Baitullah’s assets since June 14. Baitullah, his senior lieutenant Qari Hussain Mehsud, and Haqqani Network military commander Mullah Sangeen Zadran narrowly escaped one strike at a funeral that killed more than 83 Taliban fighters and civilians.
The Pakistani airstrikes in South Waziristan have begun to taper off, and there have been no reports of major ground operations in South Waziristan since June 20, when Pakistani officials said the ground operation was underway.
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