A Taliban suicide assault team known as the Muaskar ul Fida has pledged allegiance to the Taliban’s new emir, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. The suicide squad is likely loyal to the Haqqani Network, an al Qaeda-linked Taliban group that is backed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.
The members of Muaskar ul Fida swore bayat (oath of allegiance) to Mullah Mansour in a video that was released by the Taliban on its Voice of Jihad Urdu-language website on Nov. 1. However, it was not posted on Voice of Jihad’s English-language site. A translation of the production was obtained by The Long War Journal.
The video, entitled “Suicide Mujahideen Muaskar ul Fida’s Allegiance To the Commander of the Faithful Is Published,” is nearly 24 minutes long. Dozens of heavily armed members of the suicide team, nearly all of whom are masked, sit in a tent as they listen to speeches from Taliban leaders Maulawi Ehsan Abu Hamza and Abu Haris Haqqani.
The “Suicide Mujahideen” are wearing camouflage uniforms and various weapons are on display, including AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, recoilless rifles, and mortars.
Ironically, one of the Taliban fighters sports a camouflaged hat with NYPD (an abbreviation for the New York Police Department) printed on it. See the images below. Several older men with long white beards, presumably tribal elders, are also present.
Abu Hamza speaks while standing next to a young boy dressed in military fatigues and armed with an assault rifle. The boy appears to be 10 years old or younger. Abu Hamza praises Mullah Omar, the founder and first emir of the Taliban who died in Pakistan in April 2013 and whose death was concealed for more than 2 years, and then pledges to Mullah Mansour.
Next to speak is Taliban commander Abu Haris Haqqani, whose face is concealed by a white hood. He is also flanked by the same young boy. Like Abu Hamza, Haqqani lauds Mullah Omar, explains that it is important to swear allegiance to an emir, and then asks the fighters to pledge to Mansour. After his speech, the fighters shake the hand of a man in the group and give bayat to Mullah Mansour.
The video ends with a short interview with Qari Burhan, who is described as a “martyr.” Burhan also pledges to Mansour.
The Muaskar ul Fida is one of several Taliban suicide squads operating in Afghanistan. These groups execute the Taliban’s more complex attacks, including suicide assaults that target government centers, military bases, and other high-profile locations such as hotels frequented by foreigners.
The Taliban has identified two key leaders of its “Suicide Groups.” Mullah Taj Mir Jawad has been described as the head of a “martyrdom-seekers battalion.” Jawad swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour in a video released by the group in September.
Qari Abdul Raouf Zakir, the “commander” of the Taliban’s “suicide groups,” also swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour in the same video as Jawad. Qari Zakir, who was designated as a terrorist by the State Department in November 2012, has long commanded the Haqqani Network’s suicide operations.
The Haqqani Network is an al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup that operates throughout Afghanistan and is based in Pakistan, where it is supported by Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani Network, serves as Mullah Mansour’s deputy and as the head of the Taliban’s military.
Maulawi Ehsan Abu Hamza:
Abu Haris Haqqani:
Taliban fighter with NYPD hat:
Other images from the Taliban video, “Suicide Mujahideen Muaskar ul Fida’s Allegiance To the Commander of the Faithful Is Published”: