Maulvi Faqir Mohammed (Pashto/Urdu: فقیر محمد; c. 1970) is a member of the Mohmand tribe and, until March 2012, a deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban umbrella group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. He was reported as killed on 5 March 2010 during a helicopter gunship attack on militants by the Pakistani military although he denied the reports as false. In July 2011, he resurfaced on the air broadcasting radio shows out of Afghanistan. He was captured in Afghanistan on February 17, 2013.
He was born in Chopatra, in Bajaur Agency, Pakistan. Until the age of 20, he was a student unknown for any militancy. He began his education studying in a local madrassa under Maulana Abdus Salam. His first mentor was Maulana Sufi Mohammad, to whom he was introduced in 1993 at the age of 22. Sufi Mohammad is the founder of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws.
Mohammed was a staunch activist of TNSM. He and his two sons were captured in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, and were held in Dera Ismail Khan jail in southern Pakistan. However, he successfully fled back to Pakistan, where his knowledge of the territory has been useful to Al-Qaeda operatives.
Relationship with al-Qaeda
His house was raided by Pakistani security agencies hunting a "high-value" al-Qaeda target in 2005. Public sympathy raised him into a position of leadership in the Bajaur Agency. His house was raided again on 22 January 2006, and three of his relatives were arrested. He is a wanted man due to suspected contacts with Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants. Faqir has publicly stated that he has close ties to Ayman al-Zawahiri.
For his part, Faqir Mohammed strongly denies any presence of al-Qaeda or Taliban leadership in the area and says, "According to Pashtun tradition we will definitely exact revenge on America. Ayman al-Zawahiri never came here but if he wanted to come, we will welcome him, and it will be a great pleasure for us to be his host" (Daily Jang, 23 January 2006). President Pervez Musharraf, however, is insistent that "al-Qaeda fighters were probably killed in a suspected CIA air strike that killed 18 civilians in Bajaur Agency earlier this month...now that we have started investigating the reality on the ground, yes we have found that there are foreigners there, that is for sure." (The Nation, 25 January 2006).
Though not a tribal chief or elder, he has a security team and 15-20 followers. Faqir and his entourage travel in the Bajaur region with impunity.
However, his house was burnt down by tribal elders as is custom. He was warned in January 2006 that failure to surrender to authorities would result in his house being burnt down again.
He is third in command of the Pakistani Taliban umbrella group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), formed in December 2007 under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud and prefers the title Commander Faqir.
On February 23, 2009 Faqir Mohammed declared in a 30-minute radio broadcast that his followers would begin a unilateral ceasefire. The speech came only a few hours after the Pakistani military announced a halt to operations in the nearby Swat valley, where it had been battling the Swati division of the TTP under the leadership of Maulana Fazlullah.
TTP leadership changes
After Baituallah Mehsud's reported death in August 2009, Maulana Faqir Mohammed announced to the BBC that he would assume temporary leadership of the TTP and that Muslim Khan would serve as primary spokesperson. He also maintained that Baitullah had not been killed but rather was in ill health. Faqir further elaborated that decisions over leadership of the umbrella group would only be made in consultation and consensus with other TTP leaders. "The congregation of Taliban leaders has 32 members and no important decision can be taken without their consultation," he told the BBC. He reported to the AFP that both Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman had approved his appointment as temporary leader of the militant group. Neither militant had publicly confirmed Faqir's statement, and analysts cited by Dawn News believed the assumption of leadership actually indicated a power struggle.
Two days later Faqir Mohammed retracted his claims of temporary leadership and said that Hakimullah Mehsud had been selected leader of the TTP.
After the alleged death of Hakimullah Mehsud in mid-January, 2010, Faqir Mohammed was one of the highest level leaders. Malik Noor Jamal alias Maulana Toofan was reported to have been appointed as head of the TTP after Mehsud's death but his leadership may not have been entirely accepted as there were also reports of deadly clashes between Toofan's men and those of a TTP leader in Kurram. Pakistan launched an air attack on a building where it was thought that Faqir Mohammed was having a meeting with Taliban figures Fateh Mohammad and Qari Ziaur Rehman. Fateh Mohammed was quickly confirmed as dead but the death of the other two was not known immediately. Within days, Faqir Mohammed gave a telephone interview and claimed that he was not present at the attack and that all senior officials had survived.
Faqir Mohammed launched attacks on Pakistani border posts from Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, across the border with Pakistan's Bajaur Agency, and was hosted by Qari Zia-ur-Rahman. Mohammed claimed responsibility for a 4 July 2011, attack on a paramilitary checkpoint and for similar attacks in June 2011 on several border villages in Bajaur. During a radio broadcast Mohammed stated, "Our fighters carried out these two attacks from Afghanistan, and we will launch more such attacks inside Afghanistan and in Pakistan."
In early March 2012 the TTP announced that Faqir had been demoted from his role as naib amir and would be "considered a common fighter." The main TTP spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, reported that Faqir Mohammed had been conducting peace talks with the Pakistani government without the approval of TTP leadership.
On 18 February 2013 Maulvi Faqir was arrested along with his four accomplices by Afghan Intelligence Officials while he was trying to enter Pakistan’s Tirah Valley from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
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