Today the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan threatened that the group would “carry out suicide bombings against security forces and the government” if Osama bin Laden’s three widows are not freed from custody. Also today, the Taliban threatened two female Pakistani activists, and killed seven Pakistani troops in an ambush in North Waziristan.
The Taliban’s demand to the Pakistani government comes just one day after Pakistani officials announced that bin Laden’s three widows would be charged with illegally entering the country, and face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted. Pakistan said bin Laden’s children would not be charged and are free to return to their home countries, however.
“If the family of Osama bin Laden is not released as soon as possible, we will attack the judges, the lawyers and the security officials involved in their trial,” Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters. “We will carry out suicide bombings against security forces and the government across the country.”
The three women, a Yemeni and two Saudis, had illegally entered Pakistan and accompanied bin Laden at various times as he lived in Pakistan for a decade after the US invasion of Afghanistan. According to a retired Pakistani general who reviewed interrogations of bin Laden’s wives, the al Qaeda leader lived in several Pakistani towns outside of the tribal areas after leaving Afghanistan, The Associated Press reported.
Bin Laden lived in Salman Talab in Kohat for several months in 2002 (he met Khalid Sheikh Mohammed there before the latter’s capture); spent several months moving around in South Waziristan in 2003; and lived in Shangla, near Swat, and Haripur, which is just north of Islamabad, in 2004, before moving into the compound in Abbottabad in 2005. Bin Laden was killed at his home on May 2, 2011, during a nighttime raid by US Navy SEALS. His wives and children were left behind and detained and interrogated by Pakistani intelligence officials.
The Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda have threatened Pakistan in the past over the detention of female terrorists. South Waziristan Taliban leader Waliur Rehman Mehsud said he ordered the kidnapping of two Swiss hostages last year as part of an effort to free Aafia Siddiqui, who is known as “Lady al Qaeda.” She was one of the most wanted women in the world prior to her capture in Ghazni province, Afghanistan in 2008. She was involved in planning al Qaeda attacks in the US. [For more information on Siddiqui, see LWJ report, ‘Lady al Qaeda’ sentenced to 86 years in prison.]
In December 2010, top al Qaeda ideologue Abu Yahya al Libi released a propaganda tape calling on Muslims to wage jihad to avenge Aafia Siddiqui. The tape was entitled “Aafia Siddiqui…Captivity and Oppression, So Where Are the Heroes?” [see LWJ report, Analysis: ‘Lady al Qaeda’ in propaganda].
It is perhaps ironic that today’s threat to attack the Pakistani government until the three widows are released was coupled with a threat against two Pakistani females recently honored for their work protecting women and children in Pakistan. A Taliban spokesman told RFE/RL Radio Mashal that Malala Yousafzai and Shad Begum are on the Taliban’s “target list.” Begum is a social worker from Lower Dir, and Yousafzai is a 14-year-old girl from Swat who received Pakistan’s National Peace Award for Youth in 2011.
Seven Pakistani soldiers killed in North Waziristan
The same day that Ihsan issued his threat, seven Pakistani troops were killed in an ambush in Khar Qamar near Miramshah in North Waziristan. The Taliban opened fire on a Pakistani convoy with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, killing the Pakistani troops, AFP reported. The military claimed it killed nine Taliban fighters while returning fire.
The attack in North Waziristan violates a peace agreement that was forged last year between the Pakistani military and the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance of four major Taliban groups in North Waziristan. The four groups that make up the alliance are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud; Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s group; Mullah Nazir’s group; and the Haqqani Network. Each leader has appointed a deputy to represent them on the council [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda brokers new anti-US Taliban alliance in Pakistan and Afghanistan].
The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas. In a written statement released in February, Siraj Haqqani reiterated the order to abide by the peace agreement with the Pakistani military. [see LWJ report, Halt attacks on Pakistani military: Siraj Haqqani].
The formation of the Shura-e-Murakeba was brokered by senior al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al Libi; another senior al Qaeda leader known as Abdur Rehman al Saudi; Mullah Mansour, a top Taliban leader who operates in eastern Afghanistan; and Siraj. Mullah Omar, the overall leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is said to have dispatched Siraj and Mansour to help negotiate the agreement.
The Pakistani military has not responded to previous attacks by the Taliban on its troops in North Waziristan. The military and the government refuse to even admit that a peace deal is in place.
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