Jamaat-ul-Ahrar fighters marching in Pakistan’s tribal areas
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a powerful faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP), has released a video detailing a training camp somewhere in Pakistan’s northwest tribal frontier. The video also highlighted the training of suicide bombers and an assault on a Pakistani military base that took place last November.
The video begins with news reports of the Nov. 26, 2016 suicide attack on a Pakistani military base in Ghalani in the tribal agency of Mohmand. The clip portrays the attack as dealing significant damage, however, Pakistani officials have downplayed the assault. According to Pakistani officials, soldiers repelled the attack. At least one bomber detonated his explosives, however, as two soldiers were killed and 15 others wounded.
The video shows the four suicide bombers in the Mohmand assault giving speeches and then reviewing plans for the attack. The rest of the video is interlaced with more speeches from the suicide bombers and the training of just over a dozen fighters, including the four involved in the Mohmand assault. The militants are shown firing PK-machine guns, DShK heavy machine guns, as well as rifle-mounted grenade launchers.
Also included in the video are statements from Jamaat-ul-Ahrar officials, including Omar Khalid al Khurasani, a ranking leader who is known to be closely tied to al Qaeda and its emir, Ayman al Zawahiri. In the past Khurasani has called for the imposition of sharia law and the establishment of a global caliphate. Khurasani has also said that a primary goal of the Pakistani Taliban is to obtain nuclear weapons.
Based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is a dangerous faction of the TTP that also has a presence in Punjab province. The group has claimed credit for multiple attacks inside Pakistan. In one of its most callous and deadly attacks, a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomber detonated at the entrance of a park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Easter Day in 2016. At least 72 people, mostly women and children, were killed and more than 300 were wounded in the blast. The group’s spokesman explicitly stated that “the target was Christians.”
The terrorist group has also targeted the US consulate in Peshawar and polio vaccination teams in Karachi.
In Aug. 2016, the US State Department added Jamaat-ul-Ahrar to the list of global terrorists organizations.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar split from the TTP in Aug. 2014 due to a leadership dispute, but the two groups nominally reunited in March 2015. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has operated with a large degree of autonomy and issues its own statements on attacks and other matters.
Screenshots from the video:
Omar Khalid al Khurasani (right):