A commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) from the Kurram tribal agency has quit the terror group because he said it is too extreme for his tastes. The commander, Fazal Saeed Utezai, said the Taliban’s suicide attacks on civilians and at mosques were a bridge too far. From AFP/Dawn:
“I repeatedly told the leadership council of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan that they should stop suicide attacks against mosques, markets and other civilian targets,” Saeed told AFP by telephone.
“Islam does not allow killings of innocent civilians in suicide attacks,” he said, likening what TTP does in Pakistan to “what US troops are doing in Afghanistan” and vowing to continue the fight alone against the Americans.
“I have therefore decided to quit TTP,” Saeed said, claiming to have defected along with “hundreds of supporters.” A 10-member consultative council will meet within days to formulate the group’s programme, he told AFP.
Fazal later went on to deny he was a tool of the Pakistani military and intelligence services, and claimed he was the leader of the TTP in Kurram. A couple of quick points:
- Note that Fazal didn’t condemn suicide bombings, but only attacks against civilians, and at markets and mosques. Presumably all other targets are fair game. And one wonders if Fazal considers Shia to be “civilians,” given that he’s responsible for the butchering of quite a few in Kurram.
- Fazal is not the leader of the TTP in Kurram. That distinction goes to Maulvi Noor Jamal, who is also known as Maulvi Toofan. Jamal was said to be a possible successor of Hakeemullah Mehsud when the latter was rumored to have been killed last year.
- Fazal’s camps were targeted by US Predators last week. On June 20, Predators and Reapers fired four missiles at two compounds and a vehicle in the Khardand area of Kurram. Eleven Taliban fighters, including nine Haqqani Network fighters, were killed.
- Fazal’s defection from the TTP will likely be touted by some observers as a major blow to the terror group, but in all likelihood, little will change in the big picture. Fazal isn’t going up against the TTP, he just dropped out of the fight. He still wants to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is continuing to battle US forces in Afghanistan. In all likelihood, Fazal merely joined the so-called “good Taliban,” the groups that are favored by the Pakistani state. The Haqqani Network has expanded its influence greatly in Kurram [see this report at AEI from Reza Jan and Jeffrey Dressler for more information], and Fazal may be positioning himself to ally with them (note that Haqqani Network fighters were killed in his camps during last week’s Predator strikes).
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