One photo of the purported camp in Pakistan
A social media account linked to the Islamic State recently tweeted out two photos purporting to show a training camp in Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas. The images cannot be independently confirmed by The Long War Journal, however, the Islamic State’s Wilayat Khorasan [Khorasan Province], which operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is known to operate training camps right across the border in Afghanistan.
In one tweet, the Islamic State supporter said that a “Caravan of Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan pledged allegiance to the Islamic State Wilayat Khorasan.” It is not clear if the camp is located in North or South Waziristan, but the photos show the fighters in a heavily mountainous area, within a compound on the mountainside. The banner shown in the photos reads “Shahid Hakeemullah Mehsud camp, Islamic State.”
The references to Baitullah Mehsud, the founder of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Hakeemullah Mehsud, the group’s previous emir, indicates that the Islamic State fighters in Waziristan likely defected from the Mehsud branch of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Both Baitullah and Hakeemullah were killed in US drone strikes.
While the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province has absorbed disaffected members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, it has yet to establish a permanent presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. If the images released by the Islamic State supporter are legitimate, then the Khorasan province now has a foothold in Waziristan, the epicenter of al Qaeda’s base of support in Pakistan. The Islamic State has been in competition with al Qaeda for the mantle of leadership in the global jihad, and the establishment of the Khorasan Province is a direct threat to both al Qaeda and the Taliban.
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