The spokesman for a faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan confirmed the death of his counterpart for the Islamic State’s Khorasan province, vowed to avenge his death, and called for the Islamic State and the Afghan Taliban to reconcile.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, the spokesman for the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, confirmed that the US killed Shahidullah Shahid in an airstrike in eastern Afghanistan last week. Ihsan made the statement in an Urdu-language email that was sent to The Long War Journal.
“[The] Muslim nation have lost a great Mujahid, Shahidullah Shahid, who is spokesperson for the Khorasan province of the Islamic State,” Ihsan wrote. “He was martyred in Achin district of Nangarhar as a result of US drone strike.”
Ihsan vowed to avenge Shahid’s death, despite the fact that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan openly denounced the Islamic State’s “self-professed caliphate” a little over a month ago. [See LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban rejects Islamic State’s ‘self-professed caliphate’.]
“We share sympathy with the deceased and assured them that your brothers and daughters are still alive and will avenge his death from the Americans and its allies,” Ihsan continued.
A call for reconciliation
Ihsan’s sympathy and vow of revenge may be due to the fact that Shahid served as a top spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan since the group was formed in late 2006. However, Ishan may also be attempting to seize on the death of Shahid and other Islamic State commanders to mend the huge rift between the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State. Ihsan claims that a “jirga,” or council, has been formed to mediate between the two feuding parties, which are currently battling in Nangarhar province.
“Using this moment, we request all groups to solve their differences and conflicts under Sharia law so that the enemy doesn’t defeat/overcome us,” Ihsan wrote. “I would like to clarify that we formed a jirga to end conflict between Islamic Emirate [Afghan Taliban] and the province of Khorasan, Islamic State. Therefore, we request both sides to try to end their dispute.”
The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan may be the ideal mediator in the dispute between the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar split from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan last year due to a leadership dispute. Despite a lengthy war of words between the two groups, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar reunited with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan after a year of being apart. [See LWJ report, Pakistani jihadist groups, Lashkar-i-Islam merge into the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.]
The relationship between the Afghan Taliban, which has dominated the jihad in Afghanistan, and the Islamic State’s Khorasan province has been acrimonious since the latter was officially formed earlier this year. Upon announcing the formation of Khorasan province, which consists of modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of the surrounding countries, the Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, issued a veiled threat to the Taliban factions, both Afghan and Pakistani, that opposed the creation of the Khorasan province and the Islamic State.
The two jihadist branches have clashed in Afghanistan’s provinces of Nangarhar, Helmand, and Farah throughout the year. And in June Khorasan province released a fiery statement from an unidentified fighter who railed against Afghan Taliban emir Mullah Omar and accused the group of being an agent of Pakistan’s intelligence services. [See LWJ report, Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan province’ threatens Taliban in latest video.]
The Taliban’s response has been muted, and it has made great pains to ignore the Islamic State. But in mid-June, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Mullah Omar’s deputy, appealed to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State, to end the dispute and fight under the banner of the Afghan Taliban. [See LWJ report, Taliban chastise Islamic State for dividing jihadist ranks in Afghanistan and beyond.]
It is unclear if the Pakistani Taliban’s attempts to reconcile the Islamic State and the Afghan Taliban will have any impact. The Islamic State has been unwilling to make amends with al Qaeda’s branch in Syria or other jihadist organizations, and attempts by third parties to mediate the disputes have failed.
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