Pakistani Taliban release new video of Swiss hostages

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has released a videotape of a Swiss couple who were kidnapped in Baluchistan last summer and have been moved to the Waziristan tribal agencies. The Taliban reiterated their demand that Lady al Qaeda Aafia Siddiqui be released.

The short videotape was released on YouTube by the FATA Research Centre, which did not say how it obtained the tape. Both the man and woman give brief statements, and are seen holding a copy of Dawn’s Metro newspaper section, which is dated Sept. 15. The FATA Research Centre believes the video was created sometime on or after Sept. 20 as “it takes time for a newspapers to reach a war zone such as Waziristan.”

The hostages are seen kneeling in front of four Taliban fighters armed with AK-47s. Three of the men are masked and another has his face digitally distorted.

On the short tape, the male hostage calls for the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who prior to her capture in 2008 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, was one of the most wanted women in the world. She was involved in planning al Qaeda attacks in the US [for more on Siddiqui, see LWJ report, ‘Lady al Qaeda’ sentenced to 86 years in prison]. The hostage also called on Pakistan to release scores of fighters currently in custody.

This is the second time that the Taliban have demanded that the US free Aafia in exchange for the hostages. In late July, Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the deputy emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Paksitan and the group’s leader in South Waziristan, said that the couple’s fate would be decided by a Taliban court if Aafia is not freed. Waliur Rehman also said he ordered the kidnapping of the couple and that they are in his custody.

The Swiss hostages were kidnapped in Baluchistan in early July, and were transferred to the Zhob district before being moved to the South Waziristan tribal agency. While in South Waziristan, they were held in an area under the control of so-called ‘good Taliban’ leader Mullah Nazir, who is favored by the Pakistani military and government. According to the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, they may then have been transferred to North Waziristan.

The Taliban may have moved the Swiss couple to North Waziristan to leverage the skill of Moezeddine Garsallaoui, a Swiss citizen of Tunisian origins who is now thought to be a senior al Qaeda operative in North Waziristan, the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism reported. Garsallaoui, who is also known as Moez al Kayrawani, speaks fluent Pashto, Arabic, German, French, and English.

After arriving in North Waziristan, he is thought to have trained and fought with fighters loyal to Abu Laith al Libi, the revered leader of al Qaeda’s paramilitary organization, the Lashkar-al-Zil or Shadow Army, who was killed. Garsallaoui claims to have fought in Afghanistan and killed US soldiers there, according to an interview published by Jih@d, a website that tracks al Qaeda and allied terror groups.

Garsallaoui’s associates in al Qaeda have included Ghazwan al Yemeni, a protege of Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s top bomb maker and WMD chief who was killed in a US airstrike in July 2008; Abu Jameelah al Kuwaiti Hamed al Aazimi, who served with slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi; Abu Zahra al Maghrebi; and Akramah al Bunjabi al Pakistani. The four al Qaeda operatives and two Haqqani Network fighters were killed by the US in a Predator airstrike in the Miramshah bazaar in North Waziristan. Garsallaoui had left the group just prior to the airstrike [see LWJ report, Key al Qaeda operative killed in US strike in North Waziristan]. Garsallaoui was also connected to Eric Breininger, a convicted German terrorist wanted for his involvement in the failed plot to attack US military facilities in Germany in 2008. Breininger was killed in North Waziristan, Pakistan while fighting alongside the Islamic Jihad Union, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

In addition to having direct links with al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Garsallaoui is the third husband of Malika El Aroud, the Internet jihadist and propagandist with strong ties to al Qaeda. Her first husband, Dahmane Abd al Sattar, was one of the two men who assassinated Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, just two days prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the US. Garsallaoui and his wife recruited “four Belgians and two French citizens, all of North African descent,” and sent them to Pakistan to wage jihad, according to CNN.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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