Pakistani Taliban name Mullah Fazlullah as new emir

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The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has named Mullah Fazlullah, the radical cleric from Swat in northwestern Pakistan, to lead the group following the death of its former emir last week in a US drone strike.

“Fazlullah is the new TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] chief,” Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani, the head of the group’s executive council who was appointed interim emir after Hakeemullah’s death, told reporters “at a press conference at an undisclosed location in northwest Pakistan,” Dawn reported. Asmatullah also told AFP that a commander known as Sheikh Khalid Haqqani was appointed as Fazlullah’s deputy.

Shahidullah Shahid, an official spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, also confirmed to Reuters that Fazlullah is the new emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Fazlullah was one of four top Taliban commanders thought to be in the running to replace Hakeemullah, who was killed in a US drone strike on Nov. 1 in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. Khan Said, who is also known as Sajna Mehsud and who served as the group’s deputy emir under Hakeemullah, was rumored to have been appointed to lead the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan immediately after Hakeemullah’s death. But the Pakistani Taliban did not officially confirm the report.

Sajna was thought to be the frontrunner to replace Hakeemullah, as he has served as the deputy emir and is based in South Waziristan, a hub of the group’s power in the tribal areas. Both Hakeemullah and Baitullah Mehsud, his predecessor and the founder of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, were from South Waziristan.

Fazlullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio for his radical sermons broadcast throughout the northwest, has been among the top leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan since its founding in 2007. He engineered the Taliban takeover of Swat and neighboring districts from 2007-2009, and brutally ruled over a cowed civilian population. The Pakistani military intervened only after Fazlullah forces invaded Buner and advanced to just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. He has vowed to continue the fight to regain control of the Swat Valley.

He is one of the most extreme commanders in a group filled with extremists. He was one of the first leaders to have opposed polio vaccinations. Last year, he proudly ordered the assassination of Malala Yousufzai, the young schoolgirl who passionately spoke out against the Taliban in Swat, and accused her of violating sharia, or Islamic law. This year, he took credit for the assassination of a Pakistani Army general who commanded operations in Swat.

Fazlullah is also closely tied to al Qaeda. When he openly ruled Swat from 2007 to 2009, he said al Qaeda fighters were welcome there and that training camps were in operation. One of his top deputies, Ibn Amin, also served as a leader of one of six known brigades in al Qaeda’s Lashkar-al-Zil, or Shadow Army. Amin was killed in a US drone strike in Khyber in December 2010.

The new Taliban emir is known to take shelter in Afghanistan’s remote northeastern province of Kunar. US forces largely withdrew from Kunar and neighboring Nuristan provinces beginning in 2009 after remote Army outposts came under deadly attacks. US military officials claimed the insurgency would recede from the two provinces and that al Qaeda would lose support as US forces were fueling the insurgency. Instead, al Qaeda and groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan have become entrenched in the two provinces since the US withdrawal.

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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19 Comments

  • Bungo says:

    After reading the article I would guess that Mullah Radio is not on the U.S. Kill or Capture list as he has not directly targeted U.S. citizens. I guess that as far as the U.S. is concerned he can fight the Paks all he wants. That sounds about right to me. That has become my policy. The Taliban(s) can fight all the Paks and Afghans they want as long as they don’t target U.S. citizens. Once they cross that line, however, they go on “the list”.

  • Mirza Charoc, le Roi de Herat says:

    How about starting a pool on how long this Fazlullah cat will last?
    BTW, buzz from Islam-a-bad is that all political parties will be ratcheting up the hysteria about the dark and dastardly ‘Murder of Peace’ – the supposed sabotage of a (non-existent) peace process by the US, via the drone strike on Hakimullah.
    Yelling loudest are interior minister Chaudhry and the PTI’s Imran Khan, whose party controls the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Looks like they will shut down the Khyber for some symbolic period, for a few days or perhaps even a month or two.
    Will be interesting to see them go begging the army for help in securing a whole bunch of parked trucks on the Jalalabad Freeway – they know as well as anyone that any high visibility attack by the bad guys on those juicy frozen supply convoys is going to be an international public relations disaster for Pakiland.
    But anything more than a short stoppage may result in the Federales dismissing the KP provincial government and re-opening the Khyber. They have too much at stake for any longer term posturing, with all the money they get from us, and crucially since they don’t want to be isolated in the transition period when American forces start heading back home. Especially, with the Indians expected to start raising their overt presence in Afghanland next year.
    Speaking of next year, wonder where the cozy and now very public Pak-Saudi nuclear brotherhood leaves arch enemy Shiite Iran? Look for more action from Iranian-sponsored separatists in Baloch.
    Talk about non-stop entertainment – the ski season in the Sierra Nevada is just about to open and when that should begin to wind down, come spring, looks like its going to be showtime in Quetta… Yaaay…

  • Bill Baar says:

    Here’s your link Bill to the video of Fazlullah lopping off heads in Swat. Youtube’s since removed it as disgusting content. Disgusting indeed but I’m not sure how it helps covering up these acts from pubic view. //www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/07/video_taliban_execut.php#ixzz0cRoUpIuG

  • Gerald says:

    He’s an effective thug but lacking in long term vision.

  • donowen says:

    One assumes the Mehsud clan has been droned enough for a while. We all look forward to the obit of this gentleman.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    Now we get to watch as the Pakistanis desperately beg Fazlullah for peace talks while their citizens are blown up and their soldiers massacred, only becoming outraged when the US kills those responsible.
    Believe me, I’d love it if the Pakistani military wiped the floor with the TTP once and for all, but they won’t. If they want to prove me wrong, then by all means, they are free to do so.

  • Devendra says:

    This Mullah Radio is the next Drones target. He has signed his own death warrant with his promotion. It is only a matter of time, not if. He will be more visible, active and exposed in the performance of his leadership duties and that increases his chances of being hit by a Drone immeasurably.

  • Paul D says:

    The Paks wont be happy especially as they cant get him with him living in Afghanistan LOL

  • Observer says:

    Americans are eager to kill the TTP, but meanwhile Afghan Taliban leaders are free to live in their luxury villas in Pakistan. Why?
    Next year, we will see Obama calling for “Karzai must go” and then air lifting the entire Taliban leadership into Kabul.

  • EDDIED. says:

    Is that a sigh of relief I hear from the others that thought they would be NEXT?

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I expect Mullah Radio probably not lasting longer than his predecessor,as Emir of his terrorist group. There are more spies in Waziristan and Afghanistan than his own faction. Why do you think it’s been so easy for America to hit the right targets. America has the dollars to pay people to spy and even force the Pakistani army and it’s government to it’s knees.

  • gb says:

    This guys a blow torch, and very much feared locally. Getting his scalp quickly would be a major blow to TTP morale . I hope the intelligence folks are working overtime to kill this guy.

  • DR says:

    This guy sounds like a loudmouth bully as well as a scumbag so the quicker he is dispatched the better and better yet to quickly continue sending the message that we have no shortage of tax dollars when it comes to pest control. We have gotten quite good at this and the “remote” tribal areas ain’t so remote after all.

  • Caleb says:

    I can’t help but wonder how the Mehsuds feel about this. I wouldn’t assume everything is copacetic with not having another Mehsud as Emir, let alone the guy isn’t even from South Waziristan. It’s unlikely, but could this move cause some infighting within the group? Or at the very least some public arguments between them and Fazlullah?
    Ultimately, I don’t see anything drastic happening within their group dynamics. The Mehsuds will likely still be the bulk of the TTP’s fighting force and they will more than likely still continue on their part in the “global jihad”. Which brings me to a few questions that may or may not be too early to tell:
    1. How does Fazlullah compare to Hakimullah when it comes to waging the global jihad? Do you think he will continue in his footsteps and continue to plot attacks on western targets, akin to the Times Square plot or the Camp Chapman attack?
    2. Will he increase their role in other theaters, namely Syria, or will he take a more scaled down approach and focus more on the AfPak region?

  • My2Cents says:

    Normally I would be in the camp that says lets give him a couple weeks to make the rounds of all the leaders then take him out, to maximize disruption and force them to convene the selection committee in the middle of winter to find his replacement. There is a lot less traffic then and we might get lucky to track some of the leaders to the meeting for a grand slam.
    But, given he is an extremist’s extremist and the rants coming from the Pakistani politicians, it might be better to just leave him to them, and vis versa.

  • Mirza Charoc, le Roi de Herat says:

    Cannot vouch for authenticity, it is a very short segment that is looped over and over again, and had to get a pal to translate, but here is a vid supposedly shot from a cell phone showing Hakimullah chatting with his peeps and looking up at the sky, pointing towards what they said was the drone and laughing, even as it came in to zap them.
    Pak commentator says something to the effect that the white vehicle was the same one in which the guy was killed and the vid was posted to show Hakimullah, who was unarmed having just been to a conference, was unfazed when confronted by his doom and even mocked the drone before getting in his car to meet his fate with great aplomb.
    A whole bucket of salt called for, not just a pinch, but who knows? dude may have been hopped to the eyeballz on angel dust or whatta and was feeling no pain….


  • Devendra says:

    I hope Mullah Radio, the now leader of Taliban, has a competent attorney and his affairs are in order. Because, he is on borrowed time. Drones are working overtime to arrange his meeting with Allah. Good Luck Mullah Radio and Von Voyage!!

  • baju korea says:

    The moment when all the blood of swat goes to down the drain is when amnesty will be announced for these thugs in case of successful negotiations good going

  • Americans are eager to kill the TTP, but meanwhile Afghan Taliban leaders are free to live in their luxury villas in Pakistan. The most dangerous place is also safest one 🙂

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