The Los Angeles Times’ Alex Rodriguez reports on the move by fighters from the South Waziristan Taliban, al Qaeda, and Central Asia into the Arakzai and Kurram tribal agencies. This is the perfect complementary piece to today’s report on the South Waziristan operation. From the LA Times:
Villagers in Kurram and Arakzai, as well as two Arakzai-based Taliban commanders, say Al Qaeda-aligned Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters from South Waziristan are now in their villages.
“From their faces we can see they are foreigners,” said Jaleel Rahman, a Pashtun of the village of Marghan in central Kurram. “Sometimes they speak in Arabic, sometimes in English. Their leaders stay at the houses of influential people in our area. And we can’t do anything about it.”
Almost always, militants fleeing South Waziristan arrive at night in large groups piled into Toyota Land Cruisers and pickup trucks, villagers say. The newcomers have established hide-outs in the foothills and mountains skirting the villages, and have been seen digging trenches in mountainsides. Without any troops to confront them, they freely roam through villages, demanding money, food and guns.
“They are in the hundreds here,” said Sher Muhammad, a tribesman in the village of Tandar in central Kurram. “They tell us to do what they do. And whatever they like, they get by force.”
Both the Arakzai and Kurram districts had large sections controlled by Pakistani Taliban militants before fighters from South Waziristan began appearing. However, the Taliban presence in those districts wasn’t considered as large as the militant group’s forces in South Waziristan, long considered the hub for terrorism in Pakistan.
Maulana Zainul Abideen, a Pakistani Taliban commander in the Arakzai region, said during an interview in his village of Dabori that locals have set aside empty houses for fellow militants and their families arriving from South Waziristan.
“They accompany us wherever we go on patrol,” Abideen said. “They contacted our elders, and our elders allowed them to come here.”
Another Taliban commander in the Arakzai region, Mufti Khursheed, said the fleeing militants had to agree they would not “carry out any activity without us, would have to patrol with us and would join us wherever we need them. They will not take any step without our permission.”
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