|Participant in the War in North-West Pakistan, the War in Afghanistan (2001–14), and the Global War on Terrorism|
A flag used by the Tehrik-i-Taliban
|Active||December 2007 – present|
|Battles and wars|
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP; Urdu: تحریک طالبان پاکستان; "Taliban Movement of Pakistan"), alternatively referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, is a terrorist group which is an umbrella organization of various Sunni Islamist militant groups based in the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border in Pakistan. Most, but not all, Pakistani Taliban groups coalesce under the TTP. In December 2007 about 13 groups united under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud to form the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Among the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan's stated objectives are resistance against the Pakistani state, enforcement of their interpretation of sharia and a plan to unite against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
The TTP is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban movement led by Akhtar Mansour, with both groups differing greatly in their histories, strategic goals and interests although they are both predominantly Pashtun. The Afghan Taliban, with the alleged support of Pakistani Taliban, operate against international coalition and Afghan security forces in Afghanistan but are strictly opposed to targeting the Pakistani state. The TTP in contrast has almost exclusively targeted elements of the Pakistani state although it took credit for the 2009 Camp Chapman attack and the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt.
Maulana Fazlullah became the group's new leader in late 2013. In the following year the TTP fragmented into at least four groups, with the defections said to have left the group in considerable disarray.
- 1 History
- 2 Organizational structure
- 3 Relations with other militant groups
- 4 Allegations of foreign support
- 5 Claimed and alleged attacks
- 6 Involvement in the Syrian Civil War
- 7 See also
- 8 Further reading
- 9 References
Roots and development
The roots of the TTP as an organization began in 2002 when the Pakistani military conducted incursions into the tribal areas to originally combat foreign (Afghan, Arab and Central Asian) militants fleeing from the war in Afghanistan into the neighbouring tribal areas of Pakistan. A 2004 article by the BBC explains:
The military offensive had been part of the overall war against al-Qaeda. ... Since the start of the operation, the [Pakistani] military authorities have firmly established that a large number of Uzbek, Chechen and Arab militants were in the area. ... It was in July 2002 that Pakistani troops, for the first time in 55 years, entered the Tirah Valley in Khyber tribal agency. Soon they were in Shawal valley of North Waziristan, and later in South Waziristan. ... This was made possible after long negotiations with various tribes, who reluctantly agreed to allow the military's presence on the assurance that it would bring in funds and development work. But once the military action started in South Waziristan a number of Waziri sub-tribes took it as an attempt to subjugate them. Attempts to persuade them into handing over the foreign militants failed, and with an apparently mishandling by the authorities, the security campaign against suspected al-Qaeda militants turned into an undeclared war between the Pakistani military and the rebel tribesmen.
Many of the TTP's leaders are veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan and have supported the fight against the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force by providing soldiers, training, and logistics. In 2004 various tribal groups, as explained above, that would later form the TTP, effectively established their authority in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by concurrently engaging in military attacks and negotiating with Islamabad. By this time, the militants had killed around 200 rival tribal elders in the region to consolidate control. Several Pakistani analysts also cite the inception of U.S. missile strikes in the FATA as a catalyzing factor in the rise of tribal militancy in the area. More specifically they single out an October 2006 strike on a madrassah in Bajaur that was run by the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi as a turning point.
On 25 August 2008, Pakistan banned the group, froze its bank accounts and assets, and barred it from media appearances. The government also announced that bounties would be placed on prominent leaders of the TTP.
In late December 2008 and early January 2009, Mullah Omar sent a delegation, led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mullah Abdullah Zakir, to persuade leading members of the TTP to put aside differences and aid the Afghan Taliban in combating the American presence in Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and Maulavi Nazir agreed in February and formed the Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen (SIM), also transliterated as Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahideen and translated into English as the Council of United Mujahedeen. In a written statement circulated in a one-page Urdu-language pamphlet, the three affirmed that they would put aside differences to fight American-led forces and reasserted their allegiance to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden. However, the SIM did not last very long and collapsed shortly after its announcement.
Threats beyond Pakistan border
Qari Mehsud indicated in a video recorded in April 2010 the TTP would make cities in the United States a "main target" in response to U.S. drone attacks on TTP leaders. The TTP claimed responsibility for the December 2009 suicide attack on CIA facilities in Camp Chapman in Afghanistan, as well as the attempted bombing in Times Square in May 2010.
In July 2012, the TTP threatened to attack Myanmar in the wake of sectarian violence against Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan state. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah demanded the Pakistani government to sever relations with Myanmar and close down the Burmese embassy in Islamabad, and warned of attacks against Burmese interests if no action was taken. While the TTP has been conducting an insurgency in Pakistan, its ability to expand operations to other countries has been questioned. This was a rare occasion in which it warned of violence in another country.
In August 2009, a missile strike from a suspected U.S. drone killed Baitullah Mehsud. The TTP soon held a shura to appoint his successor. Government sources reported that fighting broke out during the shura between Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman. While Pakistani news channels reported that Hakimullah had been killed in the shooting, Interior Minister Rehman Malik could not confirm his death. On 18 August, Pakistani security officials announced the capture of Maulvi Omar, chief spokesperson of the TTP. Omar, who had denied the death of Baitullah, retracted his previous statements and confirmed the leader's death in the missile strike. He also acknowledged turmoil among TTP leadership following the killing.
After Omar's capture, Maulana Faqir Mohammed announced to the BBC that he would assume temporary leadership of the TTP and that Muslim Khan would serve as the organization's primary spokesperson. He also maintained that Baitullah had not been killed, but rather was in bad health. Faqir further elaborated that decisions over leadership of the umbrella group would only be made in consultation and consensus with a variety of different 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. Faqir declared that the 42-member shura had also decided that Azam Tariq would serve as the TTP's primary spokesperson, rather than Muslim Khan.
Designation as a terrorist organization
On 1 September 2010, the United States designated the TTP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and identified Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali ur-Rehman as specially designated global terrorists. The designation of the TTP as an FTO makes it a crime to provide support or to do business with the group and also allows the U.S. to freeze its assets. The US State Department also issued a $5 million reward for information on the two individuals' locations.
In July 2011, the Canadian government also added the TTP to its list of banned terrorist organizations.
In February 2014, a group of TTP jihadists under the lead of Maulana Umar Qasmi broke away from the organisation to form the Ahrar-ul-Hind, in protest against the TTP's negotiations with the Pakistan government.
In May 2014 the Mehsud faction of the TTP defected from the main group to form a breakaway unit called Tehrik-i-Taliban South Waziristan led by Khalid Mehsud. The breakaway group was unhappy with the various activities of the TTP, saying in a statement "We consider kidnapping for ransom, extortion, damage to public facilities and bombings to be un-Islamic. Tehreek-e-Taliban Mehsud group believes in stopping the oppressor from cruelty, and supporting the oppressed." The Mehsuds were widely seen as the most important group in the TTP and their loss was regarded as a major blow.
In August 2014, hardline elements of the TTP from four of the seven tribal districts formed a separate group called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, led by the Mohmand Agency commander Omar Khalid Khorosani, after disagreeing with Fazlullah's order to fight the Pakistani Army's Operation Zarb-e-Azb offensive in the Tribal Areas. However, in March 2015, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar's spokesman announced that they were rejoining the TTP. Some Uzbek and Arab fighters previously working with the TTP reportedly began leaving Pakistan to go to Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In the same month, Asmatullah Muawiya, the commander of the Punjabi Taliban, announced that his faction was ending their armed struggle against the Pakistani state.
In October 2014, the TTP's spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, and the group's commanders in Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber tribal regions and Peshawar and Hangu Districts defected from the TTP and pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).
The TTP differs in structure to the Afghan Taliban in that it lacks a central command and is a much looser coalition of various militant groups, united by hostility towards the central government in Islamabad. Several analysts describe the TTP's structure as a loose network of dispersed constituent groups that vary in size and in levels of coordination. The various factions of the TTP tend to be limited to their local areas of influence and often lack the ability to expand their operations beyond that territory.
In its original form, the TTP had Baitullah Mehsud as its amir. He was followed in the leadership hierarchy by Hafiz Gul Bahadur as naib amir, or deputy. Faqir Mohammed was the third most influential leader. The group contained members from all of FATA's seven tribal agencies as well as several districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), including Swat, Bannu, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohistan, Buner, and Malakand. Some 2008 estimates placed the total number of operatives at 30–35,000, although it is difficult to judge the reliability of such estimates.
In the aftermath of Baitullah Mehsud's death, the organization experienced turmoil among its leading militants. By the end of August 2009, however, leading members in the TTP had confirmed Hakimullah Mehsud as its second amir. Government and some TTP sources told the media that Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in January 2010 by injuries sustained during a U.S. drone attack. Unconfirmed reports from Orakzai Agency stated, after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, Malik Noor Jamal, alias Maulana Toofan, had assumed leadership of the TTP until the group determined how to proceed.
Reuters, citing a report from The Express Tribune, indicated in July 2011 that Hakimullah Mehsud's grip on the TTP leadership was weakening after the defection of Fazal Saeed Haqqani, the Taliban leader in the Kurram region, from the umbrella militant group. Haqqani cited disagreements over attacks on civilians as reason for the split. The paper quoted an associate of Mehsud's as saying that "it looks as though he is just a figurehead now... He can hardly communicate with his commanders in other parts of the tribal areas ... he is in total isolation. Only a few people within the TTP know where he is." A December 2011 report published in The Express Tribune further described the network as "crumbling" with "funds dwindling and infighting intensifying." According to various TTP operatives, the difficulties stemmed from differences of opinion within TTP leadership on pursuing peace talks with Islamabad. In December 2012 senior Pakistan military officials told Reuters that Hakimullah Mehsud had lost control of the group and that Wali-ur-Rehman was expected to be formally announced as the head of the TTP. However a video released later in the month showed Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman seated next to each other, with Mehsud calling reports of a split between the two as propaganda.
- Mullah Fazlullah – Emir (chief) of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
- Sheikh Khalid Haqqani – Naib emir (deputy chief) of TTP and leader of central / supreme shura.
- Abdul Wali (alias Omar Khalid Khorasani) – Commander of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction (based in Mohmand Agency) and splinter groups like Jundallah and Junood-e-Hafsa.
- Mangal Bagh Afridi – Head of Lashkar-e-Islam faction (based in Khyber Agency).
- Omar Mansoor (alias Omar Khalifa / Omar Naray / Omar Adinzai) – deceased Commander of TTP in Darra Adam Khel and Peshawar (Tariq Geedar Afridi group).
- Sheharyar Mehsud (alias Shahbaz) – Commander of North Waziristan TTP.
- Khalid Mehsud (alias Khan Said Sajna) – South Waziristan (Eastern Half) – Mehsud Taliban splinter group.
- Hafiz Gul Bahadur – Commander of a powerful militant faction based in North Waziristan and allied to TTP.
- Mansoor Mohmand – Mohmand Agency TTP.
- Sheikh Gul Muhammad – Bajaur Agency TTP.
- Mufti Noor Wali – Chief of Karachi chapter (Sajna group).
- Adnan Rasheed – Chief of Ansar Al-Aseer (TTP's unit tasked to free militant prisoners).
Pakistani Taliban but not allied to TTP
- Bahawal Khan Wazir (alias Salahuddin Ayubi) – South Waziristan (Western Half) – Successor of Maulvi Nazir.
- Asmatullah Muawiya – Leader of Punjabi Taliban.
- Maulana Muhammad Ali Balti (alias Muhammad Khurasani alias Mufti Khalid) – Central spokesman of TTP (Fazlullah group).
- Sajjad Mohmand (alias Ehsanullah Ehsan) – Spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction (Omar Khalid group).
- Salahuddin Ayubi – Spokesman for Lashkar-e-Islam (TTP faction based in Khyber Agency).
- Daud Mehsud (alias Haji Daud) – Spokesman for North Waziristan TTP led by Sheharyar Mehsud.
- Rais Khan Mehsud (alias Azam Tariq) – Spokesman for Mehsud Taliban (TTP splinter group led by Khalid Mehsud and based in South Waziristan).
- Ahmadullah Ahmadi – Spokesman for Hafiz Gul Bahadur group.
- Fahad Marwat – Spokesman for Jundullah splinter group.
The TTP's "media arm" is "Umar Media". Umar Media provides a "behind the scenes" look at Taliban attcks. Video clips are made in Pashto with Urdu subtitles. Umar Media also reportedly operated a Facebook page which had been created in September 2012 and had a few "likes" and a "handful of messages written in English". According to then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, the page was being "temporarily" used before the TTP would plan to launch its own website. SITE Intelligence Group described the Facebook page as a "recruitment center" looking for people to edit the TTP's quarterly magazine and videos. The page was soon removed by Facebook and the account suspended.
Relations with other militant groups
In a May 2010 interview, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus described the TTP's relationship with other militant groups as difficult to decipher: "There is clearly a symbiotic relationship between all of these different organizations: al-Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, TNSM [Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi]. And it's very difficult to parse and to try to distinguish between them. They support each other, they coordinate with each other, sometimes they compete with each other, [and] sometimes they even fight each other. But at the end of the day, there is quite a relationship between them."
Director of National Intelligence and United States Navy Admiral, Dennis C. Blair, told U.S. senators that the Pakistani state and army meanwhile draw clear distinctions among different militant groups. While links exist between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the two groups are distinct enough for the Pakistani military to be able to view them very differently. American officials said that the S Wing of the Pakistani ISI provided direct support to three major groups carrying out attacks in Afghanistan: the Afghan Taliban based in Quetta, Pakistan, commanded by Mullah Muhammad Omar; the militant network run by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; and a different group run by the guerrilla leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, all considered a strategic asset by Pakistan in contrast to the TTP run by Hakimullah Mehsud, which has engaged the Pakistani army in combat.
The Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan differ greatly in their history, leadership and goals although they are both predominantly Pashtun. The two groups are distinct, though linked, movements. An Afghan Taliban spokesman told The New York Times: "We don’t like to be involved with them, as we have rejected all affiliation with Pakistani Taliban fighters ... We have sympathy for them as Muslims, but beside that, there is nothing else between us." Peshawar-based security analyst Brigadier (retd) Muhamaad Saad believes the Taliban are not a monolithic entity. "They can be divided into three broad categories: [Afghan] Kandahari Taliban, led by Mullah Omar; [Afghan] Paktia Taliban, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani; and [Pakistani] Salfi Taliban [TTP]," he said. "It’s the Salfi Taliban who pose a real threat to Pakistan. They may not be obeying the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar." Some regional experts state that the common name "Taliban" may be more misleading than illuminating. Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace believes that "[t]he fact that they have the same name causes all kinds of confusion." As the Pakistani Army began offensives against the Pakistani Taliban, many unfamiliar with the region mistakenly thought that the assault was against the Afghan Taliban of Mullah Omar.
Although the TTP has claimed allegiance with the Afghan Taliban in the Afghan Taliban's insurgency in Afghanistan, the two groups have no direct affiliation. The TTP has almost exclusively targeted elements of the Pakistani state. The Afghan Taliban however have historically relied on support from the Pakistani army in their campaign to control Afghanistan. Regular Pakistani army troops fought alongside the Afghan Taliban in the War in Afghanistan (1996–2001). Major leaders of the Afghan Taliban including Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Siraj Haqqani are believed to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan. In 2006, Jalaluddin Haqqani was called a 'Pakistani asset' by a senior official of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Pakistan regards the Haqqanis as an important force for protecting its interests in Afghanistan and therefore has been unwilling to move against them.
Before the creation of the TTP some of their leaders and fighters were among the 10,000 Pakistani, Arab and Central Asian militants fighting as part of a 25,000 force in the War in Afghanistan (1996–2001) and the War in Afghanistan (2001-present) against the anti-Taliban United Islamic Front and NATO forces. A 1998 U.S. State Department report stated that "20–40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers [were] Pakistani." After the fall of the Afghan Taliban in late 2001, many Pakistani Taliban militants, including members of today's TTP, sought refuge in Pakistan. Afghan Taliban maintaining contacts to Pakistan's ISI also fled for Pakistan where they regrouped, maintain safe havens and training camps and from where they launched their insurgency in Afghanistan. Members of the two groups easily cross back and forth across the border between the two countries. A journalist embedded with Canadian troops in Kandahar Province in the summer of 2006 indicated that "Pakistani Taliban were routinely captured" at the time. Captured fighters admitted to being recruited and trained in Pakistan.
In 2007, Pakistani militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud created the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and killed around 200 rival Pakistani leaders. They officially defined goals to establish their rule over Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas subsequently engaging the Pakistani army in heavy combat operations. Intelligence analysts believe that these TTP's attacks on the Pakistani government, police and army strained relations between the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban. Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar asked the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in late 2008 and early 2009 to stop attacks inside Pakistan, to change their focus as an organization and to fight the Afghan National Army and ISAF forces in Afghanistan instead.
In February 2009, the three dominant Pakistani Taliban leaders agreed to put aside their differences to help counter a planned increase in American troops in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their allegiance to Mullah Omar (and to Osama bin Laden). The agreement among the TTP leaders was short-lived, however, and instead of fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban the rival Pakistani factions soon engaged in combat with each other.
In early January 2012, TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan announced that rival Taliban groups had made a new attempt to unite under a five-member council called the Shura-e-Murakeba at the behest of Mullah Omar. The TTP, he said, had agreed to Mullah Omar's demand to end suicide attacks, attacks against the Pakistani military, kidnappings for ransom, and the killing of innocent Pakistanis so that they could help focus on US forces in Afghanistan. Among the factions in the agreement were those led by Hakimullah Mehsud, Maulvi Nazir, Waliur Rahman, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Siraj Haqqani.
Recently following the TTP's Peshawar school massacre Afghan taliban leader's condemned the TTP's actions on the school, saying it was "Un-Islamic" Future relations between the Afghan Taliban and TTP are unknown.
In July 2011, after Pakistani missile attacks against Afghan provinces, Pakistani media reports alleged that senior Pakistani Taliban leaders were operating from Afghanistan to launch attacks against Pakistani border posts. According to the reports, Qari Zia-ur-Rahman hosted Faqir Muhammad in Kunar province while Sheikh Dost Muhammad, a local Afghan Taliban leader, hosted Maulana Fazlullah in Nuristan province. Faqir Muhammad, who 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, stated during a radio broadcast, "Our fighters carried out these two attacks from Afghanistan, and we will launch more such attacks inside Afghanistan and in Pakistan." Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid strongly rejected the reports and denied the possibility of Pakistani Taliban setting up bases in Afghan Taliban-controlled areas. Tameem Nuristani, Governor of Afghanistan's Nuristan Province, told The Express Tribune that while the "Afghan Taliban have never carried out cross-border attacks in Pakistan," TTP militants may have "safe-havens" in Kunar and Nuristan in "areas where the government’s writ does not exist".
In June 2012 a spokesman from the TTP's Malakand division revealed to The Express Tribune that TTP militants "regularly move across the porous border" to stage attacks against Pakistan but had only been in Afghanistan for a few months previously, contrary to Pakistani claims that the TTP had long used Afghan territory as a staging ground.
Both governments blame the other for harboring Taliban militants along the shared border. In 2009 Pakistan launched offensives to force the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan from its territory in South Waziristan. Some analysts say the fighting pushed TTP militants to the Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, where they have regrouped to threaten Pakistani border regions. The Pakistani military claims "scanty presence" of NATO and Afghan forces along the border has enabled militants to use these areas as safe havens and launch repeated attacks inside Pakistan. Afghan officials state that the withdrawal of US forces out of parts of Kunar province beginning in 2010 created a power vacuum that militants filled. They point to the fact that the Afghan state in some areas has little control due to its war against the Afghan Taliban which are supported by Pakistan according to many international and Afghan institutions, analysts and officials. Pakistan vehemently denies this claim, although some Afghan Taliban commanders stated that their training was indeed overseen by "ISI officers in a camp in Pakistan" and that they were being armed by Pakistan to fight the Afghan state and international troops in Afghanistan. Although the Afghan Taliban have asked the TTP to stop attacks against the Pakistani military and state and themselves do not carry out such attacks, they do not fight TTP militants crossing the border.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has close ties to Al Qaeda, sharing money and bomb experts and makers. John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, said: "It's a group that is closely allied with al-Qaeda. They train together, they plan together, they plot together. They are almost indistinguishable." Ambassador-at-large Daniel Benjamin stated, "The T.T.P. and Al Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship: T.T.P. draws ideological guidance from Al Qaeda, while Al Qaeda relies on the T.T.P. for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border... This mutual cooperation gives T.T.P. access to both Al Qaeda’s global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members. Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, T.T.P. is a force multiplier for Al Qaeda." Ayesha Siddiqa of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars describes the TTP as "a franchise of al Qaeda" and attributes strong ties to al-Qaeda's acquisition of "a more local character over the years." Since the days of the Soviet era, some al-Qaeda operatives have established themselves in Pashtun areas and enmeshed themselves in the local culture.
In 2008 Baitullah Mehsud met with Ayman al-Zawahiri in South Waziristan. Prior to this meeting the Pakistani Taliban answered to the Afghan Taliban and pro-Pakistan militant commanders. At the time Pakistani authorities believed that Mehsud was in fact an al-Qaeda operative. In February 2009 Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulavi Nazir released a statement in which they reaffirmed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
Ghazi Abdul Rashid Shaheed Brigade
The Ghazi Abdul Rashid Shaheed Brigade, whose name is commonly shortened to Ghazi Brigade or Ghazi Force, emerged as a jihadi organization after the Lal Masjid Operation of 2007. In 2009 the Ghazi Brigade worked closely with the TTP during military operations in the Swat Valley, and the two groups jointly planned attacks on western targets in Islamabad.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
The TTP and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) have a long history of collaboration. At one point prior to his appointment as TTP chief, Baitullah Mehsud lived with Tohir Yo'ldosh, the IMU's former leader, who became an ideological inspiration and offered the services of his 2,500 fighters to Mehsud. In April 2009 Muslim Khan listed the IMU among the TTP's allies in an interview with AP. The IMU posted a video online in September 2010 that featured footage of Yo'ldosh's successor, Abu Usman Adil, meeting with Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur Rahman Mehsud. On 8 June 2014, the TTP accepted responsibility for conducting the Jinnah International Airport attack. The militants who participated in the attack were Uzbeks belonging to the IMU, and the TTP described the attack as a joint operation between TTP and IMU.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab (Urdu/Punjabi/Saraiki: تحریک طالبان پنجاب), alternatively called the Punjabi Taliban, was a network of members of banned militant groups based in South Punjab, the southernmost region of Pakistan's most populous Punjab province. The group was disbanded in September 2014 and is no longer active. Major factions of the so-called Punjabi Taliban include operatives of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and Jaysh-i-Muhammad, who have previously supported the Kashmir insurgency against India in Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory administered by India that is claimed by Pakistan. TTP has significant recruits from Punjab-based sectarian organizations also called Punjabi Taliban. The Punjabi Taliban have reportedly developed strong connections with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and various other groups based in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). It has increasingly provided the foot-soldiers for violent acts and has played an important role in attacking Ahmedi, Shia, Sufi and other civilian targets in the Punjab.
The term "Punjabi Taliban" is politically sensitive among Pakistanis, given that Punjabis are the largest ethnic group in the country and have historically been disassociated with the Taliban, an organisation that has Afghan and Pashtun roots. Although the Punjabi Taliban are claimed and believed to be an established militant group, the Government of Punjab has denied and rejected their existence. Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab Chief Minister, has claimed that the term Punjabi Taliban is "an insult to the Punjabis" and accuses that it was coined by Rehman Malik purposely on ethnic grounds. During a 17 March 2010 cabinet meeting Malik confirmed that Punjabi militants had joined Waziristan-based Taliban to stage attacks inside Punjab. Georgetown University's C. Christine Fair writes that "the movement is composed of Pashtuns and Punjabis, among other Pakistani and even foreign elements."
The group also claimed the 2009 Lahore bombing shortly after the attack, although the attack was also claimed by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and the May 2010 attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore which were aimed at the Ahmadi minority sect.
On 24 August 2013, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed that the head of the Punjabi Taliban faction, Asmatullah Muawiya, had been stripped of his leadership for welcoming the Pakistani government’s peace talks offer. Muawiya responded by saying that the Taliban central shura (council) did not have the capacity to remove him because the Punjabi Taliban is a separate group. He added that his group has its own decision-making body to decide leadership and other matters. On 13 September 2014, Muawiya announced that their faction was ending their armed struggle to implement sharia within Pakistan, however it would continue armed struggle in Afghanistan. He urged other warring groups to end violence in Pakistan.
US officials admitted to The New York Times that they found it increasingly difficult to separate the operations of the various Pakistani militant groups active in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Individuals and groups that are believed to have a supportive relationship with the TTP include:
- Harkat-ul Jihad Islami (HuJI), an al-Qaeda-linked terror group
- Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan
- Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (based in Swat, Pakistan)
- Sufi Muhammad – arrested
Allegations of foreign support
The Pakistani military and civilian leadership have repeatedly alleged that the Indian intelligence agency RAW has been funding and training TTP members using a network of Indian consulates in Afghanistan along Pakistani border. According to the Pakistani allegations, when the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) emerged Afghan and Indian intelligence were quick to seize the opportunity to infiltrate and utilize some of its elements, particularly Baitullah Mehsud’s kin, against Pakistan and its armed forces. This has been openly admitted by Afghan intelligence.
In December 2014, after the Peshawar school attack in which 132 children were killed, the Pakistani authorities again alleged that there were significant proofs of Pakistan National Assembly support of TTP to destabilize Pakistan and to counter Pakistan's Afghan policy. Pakistan Army's official spokesman, Maj.Gen Asim Bajwa, said in the aftermath of 2014 Peshawar School attack that, "India is funding Taliban in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan. He said that a banned outfit cannot function on such a big scale unless foreign powers are funding it." In addition to Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing, the Pakistanis claim that Afghan intelligence agencies are also involved in the support of TTP. Notably, A major TTP leader, Latif Mehsud, was caught by the American troops in Afghanistan while he was in a convoy escorted by Afghan Intelligence. American forces captured the TTP leader and handed him over to Pakistani authorities, much to the anger of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Pakistanis claim this as a major proof of Afghan Intelligence agencies' support for TTP. According to Pakistani Ex-President and Army Chief, Gen Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan has a history of supporting Taliban in Afghanistan, similarly, India and Afghanistan are now supporting TTP in Pakistan to counter Pakistan's efforts, giving rise to the phenomenon of Pakistan and India's proxy wars in Af/Pak.
The Sindh Home Ministry on November 2015, wrote a letter to the Rangers and Police claiming Taliban had funded terrorist activities in Karachi. According to the letter, RAW funded around Rs 20 million for terrorist activities in Karachi. "The funding has been provided to banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat," the letter claimed.
Claimed and alleged attacks
- The Pakistani government implicated the network in the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto although the group denies the charge. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency also confirmed its belief of TTP's involvement in January 2008.
- The Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariate-Mohammadi (TNSM) claimed responsibility for a 23 December 2007 suicide bombing targeting a military convoy on behalf of the TTP. The blast in the Mingora area of the Swat Valley killed five soldiers and six civilians.
- TTP spokesman Maulvi Umar claimed that the group was responsible for 21 August 2008 suicide bomb attack on a military complex.
- TTP claimed responsibility for the 23 August 2008 Swat Valley bombing.
- Someone using the name Abdur Rehman claimed that the TTP was behind a 6 November 2008 suicide bombing that targeted tribal elders, who had gathered in the Bajaur tribal area to discuss efforts to coordinate with the government against the Pakistani Taliban. The blast took the lives of 16 and injured 31.
- On 13 November 2008, the TTP intercepted a military convoy along the Khyber Pass bound for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
- In telephone interviews with news media Mehsud claimed responsibility for the 30 March 2009 attack on the police training academy in Lahore. He told the BBC that the attack was in retaliation for continued missile strikes from American drones for which the Pakistani government shared responsibility. In the same interview Mehsud claimed two other attacks: a 25 March attack on an Islamabad police station and a 30 March suicide attack on a military convoy near Bannu.
- Mehsud claimed responsibility for the Binghamton shootings, stating that they were in retaliation for continued missile strikes from American drones. The FBI denied this claim and stated this had nothing to do with Mehsud.
- Azam Tariq, spokesman of the TTP, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a security checkpoint along the Pakistan-Afghan border near Torkham on 27 August 2009. Tariq said by telephone that the attack was the first in retaliation for the death of Baitullah Mehsud. Although the exact number of casualties was unknown, a doctor at a nearby hospital told Dawn News that they had received 22 bodies and local people working at the blast site said they had retrieved 13 bodies.
- Azam Tariq claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed five at the UN's World Food Programme Islamabad offices on 5 October 2009.
- The TTP, through Azam Tariq, claimed responsibility for the October 2009 attack on the army's headquarters at Rawalpindi. Tariq told the Associated Press that the attack was carried out by its "Punjabi faction" although the military insisted the attack originated in South Waziristan.
- The militant group claimed responsibility for three separate coordinated attacks in Lahore. 10 militants targeted buildings used by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Manawan Police Training School and the Elite Police Academy.
- The Pakistani Taliban, as well as the Afghan Taliban, claimed responsibility for the 30 December 2009 attack on Camp Chapman, a base of operations for the CIA, inside Khost Province, Afghanistan. The TTP released a video of Hakimullah Mehsud sitting next to the suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian national who had been working with the CIA. In the video, al-Balawi states that the attack is in retaliation for the killing of Baitullah Mehsud. Many analysts doubted that the TTP acted alone.
- In a video posting on YouTube, Qari Hussain claimed that the TTP was behind the May 2010 attempted car bomb in New York City's Times Square. (Previously the TTP had claimed responsibility for a shooting at an immigrant centre in NY, but it was dismissed as a hoax claim)
- An attack on two minority mosques in Lahore during May 2010 was claimed by the Taliban.
- In July 2010, the TTP claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Mohmand Agency. Two blasts occurred outside a senior government official's office as people gathered to receive relief supplies. As many as 56 people died and at least 100 suffered injuries.
- On 4 October 2010 the TTP claimed responsibility for an attack near Islamabad on fuel tankers bound for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
- In December 2010, the TTP claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing upon administrative buildings in the Mohmand district's Ghalalnai village. The blast killed 40–50 people. The purported head of the TTP in Mohmand, Omar Khalid, claimed responsibility in a telephone call with the AFP. The military's chief spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas indicated to Al Jazeera that the TTP attackers were based in neighboring Afghanistan.
- In December 2010, the TTP in South Waziristan kidnapped 23 tribesmen who had recently attended meetings with the Pakistani military.
- The TTP claimed responsibility for a 15 January 2011 attack on NATO fuel tankers likely bound for the border crossing town of Chaman. Azam Tariq told the AP, "We have assigned our fighters to go after NATO supply tankers wherever in Pakistan."
- On 31 January 2011 Azam Tariq, on behalf of the TTP, claimed responsibility of a suicide bombing in Peshawar that targeted police. The blast killed 5 people (3 police and 2 civilians) and injured 11.
- On 10 February 2011 the TTP claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at an army compound in Mardan that killed at least 31 people. Azam Tariq told the AFP that the attack was in response to repeated U.S. drone attacks and military incursions in the tribal areas. He also threatened further attacks against "those who protect the Americans".
- The TTP released a video of the execution of a former ISI officer known as Colonel Imam. The TTP said they had carried out the murder on 17 February 2011. His body was found near Mir Ali, North Waziristan.
- On 8 March 2011 a car bomb explosion at a gas station in Faisalabad killed at least 32 and injured 125. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility and stated that the intended target was a nearby ISI office. He said that the attack was in retaliation for the death of a Taliban commander the previous year.
- On 9 March 2011 a suicide bomber attacked a funeral procession in Peshawar. The procession consisted of many anti-Taliban militiamen. Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the Pakistani Taliban had carried out the attack because the militiamen had allied themselves with the Pakistani government and, by extension, the United States.
- On 4 April 2011 two suicide bombers attacked a Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan, Pakistan. The bombings occurred while thousands of devotees were gathered for the annual Urs celebrations at the shrine. The attack left more than 50 people dead, as well as 120 wounded. The Pakistani Taliban are ideologically opposed to Sufism and claimed responsibility soon after the attacks.
- Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for two remotely detonated explosions that targeted two Pakistani Navy buses in Karachi on 26 April 2011.
- Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for a 28 April 2011 attack upon a Pakistani Navy bus in Karachi that killed 5.
- On 13 May 2011 the TTP claimed responsibility for a dual suicide bomb attacks on a Frontier Constabulary (FC) headquarters in Shabqadar, a town about 30 kilometers north of Peshawar, in Charsadda District. The attack killed more than 80 and injured at least 115 people. Most of the casualties were FC cadets. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed that the attack was retribution for the killing of Osama bin Laden.
- The TTP claimed responsibility for a 22 May 2011 attack on a naval station in Karachi.
- A suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden pickup truck into a Peshawar police building on 25 May 2011. The blast killed six and wounded 30. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.
- On 13 September 2011, five militants with assault rifles and rockets attacked a school bus, killing the driver, four boys aged 10 to 15, and wounding two seven-year-old girls. TTP claimed responsibility.
- On 1 December 2011 the TTP claimed responsibility for the death of Hashim Zaman, an anti-TTP tribal leader, who was killed in Hangu.
- TTP militants abducted 15 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers on 23 December 2011 from a fort in Mullazai. TTP spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan announced on 5 January 2012 that the militant group had executed the 15 paramilitary soldiers. The bodies were recovered close to a ravine and were mutilated according to locals. On 22 January 2012 the TTP released a video showing the execution of the 15 soldiers.
- Ahmed Marwat, a spokesman for a Jandola faction of the TTP, claimed to Reuters that Mohammed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent suspected of killing seven people in Toulouse, France, had received TTP training in North Waziristan. However, Marwat denied the TTP's involvement in the shootings, and the head of French intelligence indicated they had no evidence that Merah belonged to any militant Islamist group. Pakistani officials allege that the TTP trained 85 French nationals between 2009 and 2012.
- The TTP Khyber Agency faction claimed responsibility for a 23 March 2012 bombing that targeted a mosque, run by Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), in Kolay village of Tirah Valley. The blast killed more than a dozen people and injured at least six others. A TTP spokesman told reporters that the attacks against the LeI would continue.
- The TTP claimed responsibility for an 5 April 2012 suicide bombing targeting a police vehicle in Karachi. The blast killed two and injured nine.
- On 15 April 2012 the TTP claimed responsibility for a prison break in Bannu. 384 convicts escaped although many were later recaptured.
- A suicide bomb on 4 May 2012 killed 24 and wounded at least 45 in a Bajaur market . The TTP claimed responsibility.
- The Malakand branch of the TTP claimed responsibility for 24 June 2012 attacks on Pakistani security checkpoints near the Afghan border. 13 Pakistani troops were reportedly killed while 14 militants died. The Pakistani military alleged that the militants had crossed over from Afghanistan, but the TTP did not confirm in claiming responsibility. The TTP also denied that it had taken casualties.
- On 25 June 2012 the TTP claimed responsibility for gunfire on Aaj News TV, a local station in Karachi. Two were injured. Ehsanullah Ehsan said that the TTP was upset that it was not receiving coverage equal to that of the Pakistani military and government.
- On 9 July 2012 miltants linked to the TTP attacked an army camp near Gujrat city that killed seven soldiers and a policeman. A pamphlet found at the scene indicated that attacks against government installations would continue as long as Pakistan allowed NATO to use its territory to transport supplies into Afghanistan.
- The TTP claimed responsibility for a 16 August 2012 attack on the Minhas Airbase in Kamra. The two-hour firefight resulted in the deaths of nine insurgents and two soldiers. Three other soldiers were wounded.
- On 16 August 2012 militants removed 22 Shiites from buses and executed them in Mansehra District. The Darra Adam Khel faction of the TTP claimed responsibility in a telephone interview with Reuters.
- The TTP claimed responsibility for the 9 October 2012 school-bus shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a young activist blogger, and two other schoolgirls. Supporting the attack, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan stated “whom so ever leads a campaign against Islam and Shariah is ordered to be killed by Shariah.” He added that it is “not just allowed … but obligatory in Islam” to kill such a person involved “in leading a campaign against Shariah... ."
- The TTP claimed responsibility for the 2014 Jinnah International Airport attack, which was carried out jointly with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The militants who participated in the attack were Uzbek foreigners.
- The TTP claimed responsibility for the 2014 Peshawar school attack which claimed 141 lives, including 132 school children between eight and 18 years of age, with the remaining nine fatalities being staff members of the school.
- A commander within the TTP claimed responsibility for the Bacha Khan University attack, in which at least thirty students and teachers were killed by as yet unidentified gunmen. However, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Taliban denied the group's involvement.
Involvement in the Syrian Civil War
The Taliban have set up camps and reinforced hundreds of fighters to Syria to fight alongside rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad in continuity of cementation of ties with al Qaeda. Taliban commanders in Pakistan said that they had decided to join the cause, saying hundreds of fighters had gone to Syria to fight alongside their "Mujahedeen friends". The Taliban commander termed the Arab fighters as their friends. Media reported the visit and setup of a Pakistani Taliban base in Syria to assess "the needs of the jihad". The Taliban commader said: "Since our Arab brothers have come here for our support, we are bound to help them in their respective countries and that is what we did in Syria" At least 12 experts in information technology and warfare were sent to Syria in the last two months to aid the Mujahideen. The Pakistani government has not commented on the allegations.
- Who is Who in the Pakistani Taliban: A Sampling of Insurgent Personalities in Seven Operational Zones in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and North Western Frontier Province NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL Program for Culture and Conflict Studies
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The latest military offensive in which air force bombers and gunship helicopters pounded an alleged training camp of suspected al-Qaeda militants, has resulted in heavy casualties. And it has taken the conflict to an area [South Waziristan] that until now had remained relatively peaceful. ... The military offensive had been part of the overall war against al-Qaeda. ... Since the start of operation, the [Pakistani] military authorities have firmly established that a large number of Uzbek, Chechen and Arab militants were in the area. ... It was in July 2002 that Pakistani troops, for the first time in 55 years, entered the Tirah Valley in Khyber tribal agency. Soon they were in Shawal valley of North Waziristan, and later in South Waziristan. ...This was made possible after long negotiations with various tribes, who reluctantly agreed to allow the military's presence on the assurance that it would bring in funds and development work. But once the military action started in South Waziristan a number of Waziri sub-tribes took it as an attempt to subjugate them. Attempts to persuade them into handing over the foreign militants failed, and with an apparently mishandling by the authorities, the security campaign against suspected al-Qaeda militants turned into an undeclared war between the Pakistani military and the rebel tribesmen.
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Pakistani news channels were carrying unconfirmed reports that Hakimullah Mehsud, one of the movement's most powerful commanders, had been killed at a shura, or council meeting, held to decide who would succeed slain leader Baitullah Mehsud. "The infighting was between Wali-ur-Rehman and Hakimullah Mehsud," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters. "We have information that one of them has been killed. Who was killed we will be able to say later after confirming."
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Separately, there are a wide range of Islamist militant groups, principally based in north-west Pakistan, a large number of which coalesced under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taleban-e- Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban (Franco 2009:269). Although the ISI previously supported many of these groups, since 2007 the militants have increasingly turned their fire on Pakistani state.8 Consequently, the Pakistani military has undertaken extensive operations against their strongholds in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.9 While there are undoubtedly links between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, they appear to be sufficiently distinct for the Pakistani military and ISI to treat them very differently.
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Muslim Khan counted the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the Jaish-e-Muhammad, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban of Afghanistan among his allies. "If we need, we can call them and if they need, they can call us," he said. He said his forces would go to help the Taliban in Afghanistan if the United States and NATO continue to fight there.
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After the US ousted Mullah Omar from power in 2001 and 2002, the Taliban and al Qaeda regrouped in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan as well as in northwestern Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban teamed up with Pakistani Taliban factions and maintain safe havens and training camps in Pakistan to this day.
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To ignore that the Taliban in Afghanistan receive very real support from Pakistan understates the severity of the problem. When thousands of Taliban from Pakistan have been positively identified as organizing, arming, training, and raiding from camps in Waziristan and Bajaur, this isn't a problem that can be easily swept under the rug. While I was embedded with the Canadian Army in Kandahar last summer, Pakistani Taliban were routinely captured. Last fall, captured fighters admitted to being recruited and trained in Pakistan. “Mullahs in Pakistan were preaching to us that we are obliged to fight jihad in Afghanistan,” said a Pakistani Taliban fighter named Alahuddin. “A Pakistani Taliban commander, Saifullah, introduced us to a guide who escorted us to Barmal.” The unit he crossed over with was largely from North Waziristan, and Maulivi Saifullah signed the Waziristan Accord. There are numerous accounts such as this.
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