The Taliban have murdered another tribal leader who helped to raise a tribal militia in Pakistan’s violent northwest.
Malik Abdul Majeed, a tribal leader in the Mamond region in the Bajaur tribal agency, was gunned down while driving through the town of Damadola in Mamond. At the time of his murder, Majeed was on his way to meet with government officials to discuss efforts to beat back the Taliban in the Mamond areas.
The Momand region is a notorious stronghold for the Taliban and Faqir Mohammed, the chief of the Bajaur Taliban. Although the military has conducted several operations there, it has failed to eject the Taliban. Al Qaeda is also known to shelter in Momand. In January 2006, the US targeted a meeting of senior al Qaeda leaders in the town of Damadola in Momand. Ayman al Zawahiri, Abu Khabab al Masri, and several other senior al Qaeda leaders were thought to be meeting there.
The Salarzai tribe, which lives in a region adjoining the Mamond tribal areas, has clashed with the Mamond Taliban. Salarzai leaders have accused Pakistan’s military and intelligence service of aiding the Taliban against tribes that dare to raise lashkars, or militias, against them, and of even shelling Salarzai tribal areas. A senior Salarzai tribal leader later denied such reports, however, and said the tribe was working hand in hand with the government.
The Taliban have been targeting tribal leaders as they attempt to organize lashkars to eject the extremists from their towns. Majeed is the tenth tribal leader to have been assassinated in 10 days.
On Sept. 24, the Taliban ambushed a convoy in the district of Bannu and killed Malik Sultan and seven other tribal elders from the Jani Khel region. Malik had been the organizer of an anti-Taliban lashkar. On Sept. 28, a suicide bomber drove his van packed with explosives into a car transporting Maulana Abdul Hakim, a local tribal chief in Bannu, and killed him and three of his bodyguards.
The Taliban have responded viciously to efforts by tribal leaders to oppose the spread of extremism in the tribal areas. Tribal opposition has been violently attacked and defeated in Peshawar, Arakzai, Khyber, North and South Waziristan, and previously in Swat and Dir. Suicide bombers have struck at tribal meetings held at mosques, schools, hotels, and homes. The Taliban often have a numerical advantage over the tribes, and Taliban fighters are better trained after battling government forces in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The tribes have often been hesitant to work with the Pakistani government and military.
Lashkars are having some limited success in Dir and Swat after the military took on the Taliban in these two districts beginning in late April. Thousands of lashkar fighters have been raised in Swat, and hundreds of Taliban fighters have turned up dead. Both the lashkars and the military are being blamed for the executions.