Pakistani Taliban to target military, government to avenge leader killed in drone strike

Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani, the head of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s executive shura, or council, threatened to step up attacks against the military, government, and police forces in the wake of the US drone strike that killed the group’s former emir, Hakeemullah Mehsud. Asmatullah served as interim emir up until yesterday, when Mullah Fazlullah was named to serve as the new leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. From Reuters:

“We will target security forces, government installations, political leaders and police,” Asmatullah Shaheen, head of the shura and caretaker leader of the TTP, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

He said the Taliban’s main target included army and government installations in Punjab province, the political stronghold of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“We have a plan. But I want to make one thing clear. We will not target civilians, bazaars or public places. People do not need to be afraid,” Shaheen added.

Pakistan publicly condemns US drone strikes as a breach of its sovereignty but in private officials admit the government broadly supports them. Militants are mainly holed up in remote areas on the Pak-Afghan border where the army has no presence.

“Pakistan has full information about drone attacks,” said Shaheen. “Pakistan is a slave of America. It is an American colony.”

Given that Fazlullah is famous for targeting civilians (see Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl targeted by Fazlullah for assassination for having the temerity to speak out against oppressive Taliban rule), Asmatullah’s statement rings hollow.

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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