Reclusive Leader of Haqqani Network Speaks to Press as U.S. Urges His Elimination

Andrew McGregor

January 28, 2010

Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the dangerously effective and independently operated “Haqqani Network” of Taliban insurgents, terrorists and suicide bombers gave a rare interview to al-Jazeera on January 19. Based in the Miran Shah district of North Waziristan, the network’s operations straddle both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.. During a January 21-22 visit to Islamabad, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Pakistan’s political and military leadership to expand military operations into North Waziristan, a Haqqani Network stronghold (AFP, January 21).

Sirajuddin Haqqani 2Sirajuddin Haqqani

The secretive Taliban commander revealed little about future activities in the short videotaped interview, but the occasion may have marked a decision to take a more visible role in the conflict. Despite being strongly anti-American, Sirajuddin gave an email and telephone interview to the Wall Street Journal last December (Wall Street Journal, January 20). With U.S. forces scheduled to begin withdrawal next year, Sirajuddin may be attempting to increase his political profile, though not his visibility – Sirajuddin covered part of his face with a head cloth at all times during the al-Jazeera interview.  Nevertheless, at one point Sirajuddin appears to complain that his group is not receiving sufficient media attention. “The world is covering up our operations; they know well who we are. I cannot tell you anything before it happens. God willing, the day will come when they will admit who we are…”

Though there have been questions about Sirajuddin’s apparent independence from the core Taliban leadership under Mullah Omar, the Taliban commander insists coordination between the various components of the Taliban is greater than ever:

Thank God, the mujahideen are getting more advanced. The war is now being dictated by them. I can guarantee you that in the future their fighting will be even better. At the beginning of this war the coordination between our fighters was useless, but now there are so many attacks that even we cannot count them ourselves. But it’s still not enough. The future will show what I mean.

Perhaps in anticipation of a Pakistani crackdown, Sirajuddin recently downplayed his activities in North Waziristan, emphasizing that he was concentrating on military operations in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces (Nawai Afghan Jihad, November 11, 2009).

Sirajuddin Haqqani is a dominant presence in Afghanistan’s Khost province. It is unlikely that the complicated operation that resulted in a Jordanian triple agent blowing up seven CIA agents and a Jordanian intelligence operative in Khost on December 30, 2009 could have been carried out without his cooperation or approval.


This article first appeared in the January 28, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Mystery Surrounds Devastation of Karachi Markets after Ashura Blast

Andrew McGregor

January 7, 2010

The terrorist bombing that struck an Ashura Shiite religious procession in downtown Karachi on December 28 was followed by a wave of arson attacks that destroyed most of the commercial market district of that city. The apparent organization of the arsonists and the failure of security forces and the local fire department to restrain the arsonists or suppress the conflagration until most of the market area had been destroyed has raised serious questions about the government’s declaration that the arson attacks were a spontaneous reaction by Shiites to the bombing that killed 43 people.

Karachi AshuraArsonists Strike Karachi’s Commercial Market District

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which it says was carried out by a suicide bomber, though a police investigation says the bomb was an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated by remote control (AFP, December 30;, January 5). Shortly before the attacks, reports emerged of CDs being distributed in Karachi that demonstrated the use of weapons and bomb-making methods (Daily Times [Lahore], December 22, 2009).

A respected Islamabad daily reported “the Rangers [a paramilitary under the Ministry of the Interior] and the police were simple bystanders watching the looters with folded hands” as apparently well-trained young men “methodically burnt one building after another, turning goods and property worth billions into ashes” (The News [Islamabad], January 2). Following the mass arson attacks, both the Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) accused each other of failing to provide security and failing to check the fires. There were reports that local authorities sought permission to open fire on the arsonists, but authorization was denied (The News [Islamabad], January 2). There are accusations that the objective of the unknown arsonists was “not only to destabilize the city, but to pave the way for the mighty land mafia that is adamant to demolish all old, historical buildings and replace them with skyscrapers” (The News, December 31, 2009).

Interior Minister Rehman Malik provided a rather shocking explanation of the security collapse that allowed the markets of Karachi to be destroyed when he explained to Karachi business leaders, “The police and the Rangers do not know how to fire their guns. They have no training and the business community must contribute to a fund to provide training to these forces” (The News, January 2). A government suggestion that temporary markets could be built elsewhere was rejected by the business community on the grounds that acceptance might evolve into a final settlement as developers and influential politicians demolish the damaged markets and construct new commercial plazas with exorbitant rents.

The leader of the Sunni Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami political party, Syed Munawwar Hasan, suggested that India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW- Indian external intelligence) and U.S. private security firm Blackwater (now Xe Services LLC) may have played a role in the bombing. Blackwater (Xe) is commonly blamed for terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Noting that security forces did not act to prevent the arson and fire brigades did not respond for four hours, Syed Munawwar asked President Asif Ali Zardari whether the state “actually existed anywhere and why it did not act in time” (The News, December 31). Most notably in a city known for Sunni-Shi’a sectarian tensions, Syed Munawwar clearly stated that the arson attacks had been carried out by “conspirators” rather than the Shi’a community.

The Grand Mufti of Pakistan, Muhammad Rafi Usmani, stated at a press conference days after the destruction that Blackwater was responsible for the bombing of the procession of Shiite mourners celebrating Ashura (The News, December 30). The Interior Minister blamed “certain powers” (India is most likely to be understood here) for the destruction of Karachi’s markets, but denied the presence of Blackwater (Xe) private security forces in Pakistan (Daily Times [Lahore], January 2; The News, January 2).

The National Assembly leader of the Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Dr. Farooq Sattar, appeared at a press conference alongside Interior Minister Malik to state that “land and drug mafias” were behind the Ashura violence (The News, January 1). Malik said the bombing was not a suicide attack and the markets had been set aflame in an organized rather than spontaneous manner (Daily Times, January 2; The News, January 1). An investigation is expected in order to inquire why several hours passed before any effort was made to extinguish the blazes.

The blast was followed by the alarming news that the alleged mastermind of the December 28 Ashura bombing, Sirajullah (a.k.a. Zeeshan, a.k.a. Shani), had been in police custody since December 23 and had revealed details of the bombing (including planning and the type of explosives) before the attack was carried out (Daily Times [Lahore], January 1, January 3; The Nation [Islamabad], December 31, 2009).

This article first appeared in the January 7, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Baloch Nationalist Leader Discusses Creation of a Secular and Independent Balochistan

Andrew McGregor

December 3, 2009

Baloch leader Hyrbyair Marri recently gave an interview on the independence movement and growing insurgency in the highly strategic and resource rich Pakistani province of Balochistan (Geo News [Karachi], November 26). Hyrbyair seeks a negotiated withdrawal of the Pakistani military from Balochistan, maintaining that Balochistan was an independent country in 1947 until Pakistani forces occupied the region in 1948. Provincial autonomy is rejected as “we do not accept that Balochistan is a province of Pakistan.”

HyrbyairHyrbyair Marri

Hyrbyair is the son of Marri tribal chief Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri. His brother, Balach Marri, a reported leader of the Marxist-oriented and Marri-dominated Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2007 (Balochistan Express, November 22, 2007). Hyrbyair is a former Balochistan MP (1997-2002) and was a minister in the provincial assembly for two of those years. He fled to the UK in 2002, but was arrested and charged with inciting terrorism in December 2007 (Dawn [Karachi], December 12). Supporters of Hyrbyair claim the arrest came at the request of former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharaff, who demanded action on Balochi nationalists living in exile in the UK as the price of further cooperation in the war on terrorism. An Islamabad daily reported that the new government contributed substantial amounts to Hyrbyair’s defense as part of a program of confidence-building measures with Baloch leaders. Hyrbyair was acquitted on three charges with no decision on a fourth in February 2009 (Crown Prosecution Service Press Statement, March 10).

Compared to the rest of Pakistan, Balochistan is sparsely populated and poorly developed, but Hyrbyair insists that an abundance of natural resources such as oil and gas will provide the economic backbone for an independent state. Hyrbyair suggests a secular Baloch state may also attract the support of the United States. “Secularism is in the nature of the Baloch people and is a part of the Baloch ethos.”

Hyrbyair rejected the past participation of Baloch politicians in Pakistan’s federal government, describing two former Baloch presidents and one prime minister as “paid employees of the federal government.” Baloch politicians who took government posts may have “wanted to do something for the people of Balochistan, but contrary to that, their participation in the political process consolidated the tyranny of the federal government over Balochistan.”

In response to questions regarding the violence of the independence movement and the targeting of Punjabi civilians, Hyrbyair denies having any influence over the movement, which he claims is run by “local Baloch youth,” though he also claims to have no idea who the movement’s leader is. Asked if the independence movement was financed by India, Hyrbyair replied, “I don’t think that it is true.”

The development of the massive new Gwadar port in Balochistan is a major point of contention, with Hyrbyair claiming the port will benefit only Pakistan and not Balochistan. The nationalist leader says local leaders who opposed the development were kidnapped and killed by Pakistani intelligence agencies. Hyrbyair denies that the opposition to the port is being funded by Gulf states that will lose business to the modern facilities being built at Gwadar.

The Urdu language interview came only a day after Hyrbyair and other exiled Baloch leaders rejected a proposal from Islamabad designed to end the long-standing insurgency in Balochistan. The offer called for a cessation in military activities, the release of political detainees and a payment of $1.4 billion in gas royalties over 12 years (Reuters, November 25). The “Rahe-i-Haqooq Balochistan” package included a ban on the construction of new military camps in Balochistan, though two existing camps would remain operational. Hyrbyair described the government’s proposal as “a mockery and a cruel joke” (The News [Islambad]. November 25).

This article first appeared in the December 3, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Leading Pakistani Islamist Organizing Popular Movement against South Waziristan Operations

Andrew McGregor

November 25 2009

As the Pakistani Army pushes deeper into South Waziristan, a vocal political challenge to Islamabad’s cooperation in the War on Terrorism has emerged in the form of Syed Munawar Hasan, the Amir (leader) of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)—the leading party in the religious coalition that rules Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)—and  a member of the ruling coalition in Balochistan Province.

Syed MunawarSyed Munawar Hasan

Syed Munawar was a student of JI founder Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979), one of the leading theorists of political Islam. A member of JI-Pakistan since 1967 and the party’s Secretary General since 1993, Syed Munawar has begun a very public campaign to rally support among Pakistan’s conservative religious community against the U.S. role in the region and Islamabad’s offensive against Taliban extremists in South Waziristan. He is also calling for a diplomatic campaign against India for its alleged role in terrorist activities within Pakistan.

In recent well-publicized rallies and Friday sermons, Syed Munawar has issued a series of provocative statements and demands. According to the JI’s Amir:

• Pakistan should sever all ties with India and begin a diplomatic campaign against the country at the United Nations in response to the discovery of Indian arms in South Waziristan and Balochistan. The government has failed to do this because India is backed by the United States. Indian Hindus are organizing atrocities against India’s Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Buddhist communities (Jasarat [Karachi], November 15; The News [Islamabad], November 14). JI is organizing “black days” of protest against India in mid-December.

• Muslim Kashmiris have been waging a struggle for freedom from India for 62 years. India has responded by sending a 700,000 man “army of savages” (Jasarat [Karachi], November 15). Though JI claims it is dedicated to a peaceful and democratic process, the exception is Kashmir, in which case the movement actively supports armed groups fighting Indian rule.

• State terrorism is the real form of terrorism due to the massive firepower available to modern states. Millions of people have died in the “unprecedented” destruction caused by state terrorism (Jasarat [Karachi], November 15)

• The United States is seeking to create a “mini-Pentagon” in Islamabad by expanding its embassy there. Islamabad is “under the occupation of Blackwater [renamed Xe Services LLC in February]” and Washington is pushing for an expansion of the counter-insurgency operations to North Waziristan. The ongoing drone attacks on insurgent leaders are an assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan but come as part of a campaign to change the borders of Pakistan (The News [Islamabad], November 19). Syed Munawar called on Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to write a letter to President Barack Obama demanding a halt to the drone attacks (The Nation [Lahore], November 20).

• The October attack on the Army’s GHQ in Rawalpindi was not the work of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (as the movement claimed in an October 12 TTP statement), but was instead the work of the United States and India. “I am not ready to believe that the Taliban are so powerful that they would dare attack the GHQ” (Dawn [Karachi], October 12; The News [Islamabad], November 19).He identified “the secret terrorist force, Blackwater” and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW – India’s external intelligence agency) as the perpetrators (The Nation, November 20; Jasarat, November 12).

Tariq Afridi Appointed Head of Taliban in Strategic Khyber Agency

Andrew McGregor

November 19, 2009

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have filled the post of Taliban chief in the strategically important Khyber Agency following a meeting in Orakzai Agency (The News [Islamabad], November 10). The new leader is Tariq Afridi, the notorious Taliban commander based in Darra Adam Khel.

Khyber Agency


Afridi will replace former Khyber Agency Taliban commander Kamran Mustafa Hijrat (a.k.a. Muhammad Yahya Hijrat; a.ka.a Mustafa Kamal Kamran Hijrat), who was arrested by Pakistani security forces in December 2008. Hijrat was responsible for planning numerous attacks on NATO supply convoys in Peshawar and along the dangerous highway through the Khyber Pass. It can be expected that Afridi will now take over these operations, which are intended to pressure U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan by cutting off their supply lines.

From his base at Darra Adam Khel, Afridi has been responsible for attacks on security forces in Orakzai Agency as well as suicide bombings in Peshawar, Kohat and the Punjab. He is best known outside of Pakistan for his kidnapping and murder of Polish engineer Petr Stanczak in 2008. Stanczak was beheaded by his captors in February 2009 when Islamabad refused to release certain Taliban prisoners in exchange for the hostage. A cash offer was made but refused by Afridi (Dawn [Karachi], April 26).

Despite his rise through the Taliban ranks, Tariq Afridi nonetheless faces opposition from within his own tribe. Last April a lashkar [ad hoc militia] of over 300 mostly Afridi tribesmen was raised to drive the Taliban commander out of Darra Adam Khel. Most members of the lashkar had previously been under Tariq Afridi, but left his group over killings of security personnel. Despite some clashes, the lashkar did not succeed in their mission (Dawn [Karachi], April 23).

This article first appeared in the November 19, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Uzbek Militants Withdraw after Pakistani Army Seizes Kaniguram

Andrew McGregor

November 6, 2009

After heated fighting, Pakistani forces in South Waziristan have captured the towns of Sararogha and Kaniguram, the latter a main center for fighters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a militant organization that has operated in the region since it was forced from its bases in Afghanistan in late 2001. Pakistani security services claim over 360 militants have been killed since the start of Operation Rah-e-Nijat, to the loss of 37 soldiers (The Nation [Islamabad], November 4).

KaniguramThe slow start to the air and ground offensive involving 30,000 troops provided the militants ample time to prepare escape routes, but continuing suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan’s major urban areas by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have provided a new sense of urgency in eliminating the terrorist threat in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwest Pakistan. Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has described the elimination of the Uzbek militants as one of the three main goals of Operation Rah-e-Nijat.

Uzbek fighters and TTP militants were reported to be fighting from fortified positions and bunkers at Kaniguram as Pakistani troops struggled to take the town street by street, clearing IEDs as they went. Jet fighters, helicopter gunships and artillery were all used to hammer the militants’ positions (Daily Times [Lahore], November 3; Dawn [Karachi], November 4). The number of Uzbek fighters based at Kaniguram was estimated somewhere between 1,000 to 1,500. The town is primarily populated by members of the Pashtun Barki tribe (Nawa-i-Waqt [Rawalpindi], November 1).

While many accounts of the operation have described the Uzbeks as being “on the run” after the army’s attack on Kaniguram, Brigadier Muhammad Ihsan allowed that the Uzbeks “might have made a strategic withdrawal” (Dawn, November 4). Major General Khalid Rabbani, commander of Pakistan’s 9th Infantry Division, said Uzbek militants “gave us a very good fight” in the army’s earlier effort to take the village of Sherwangi, a known base for foreign fighters. The Uzbeks eventually made a disciplined withdrawal from the village to continue resistance elsewhere (AFP, November 1).

The IMU leader, Tahir Yuldash, is believed to have been killed in a missile strike in August, but it is unclear what changes, if any, have been made to the IMU leadership structure, particularly with IMU spokesmen denying reports of his still unconfirmed death. Locally the options for IMU fugitives are limited, as the Uzbek gunmen have developed serious differences with TTP factions beyond the Mahsud tribe of South Waziristan. There are reports that the Uzbeks may be moving into North Waziristan, but this would bring them into close proximity to TTP factions that have long opposed the Uzbek presence. Crossing the border into east Afghanistan via established Taliban routes may be the best option for the surviving IMU fighters, many of whom are traveling with their families. The military operation in South Waziristan is expected to last another one to two months.

This article first appeared in the November 6, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Pakistani Security Sweep Seizes Taliban Leaders in Karachi

Andrew McGregor

October 30, 2009

Pakistani security forces have announced the arrest of Akhtar Zaman Mahsud, the alleged Amir of the Karachi branch of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) as part of a major sweep of terrorist suspects in the strategically important port city.

Pak Army in KarachiPakistani Security Forces during Operations against TTP Militants in Karachi

Security forces claimed Akhtar Zaman was arrested in Karachi’s eastern suburb of Sohrab Goth following an October 18 shootout with police. However, some police sources and members of the largely Pashtun Sohrab Goth community insisted Akhtar Zaman was actually arrested in a raid on a supermarket on September 14 (The News [Islamabad], October 21; PakTribune, October 20). The alleged TTP commander and three others arrested with him (including Samiullah, a.k.a. Shamim, Fazal Kareem and Munawar Khan) were charged with involvement in an unsuccessful attack on the Kemari Oil Terminal on the night of September 14. One Islamabad daily quoted an anonymous senior police source as saying, “If we produce an accused before the court after 24 hours of his arrest, it becomes a case of habeas corpus, so normally police show the arrests of accused a day prior to their production in the court” (The News, October 21).

A police official said the suspects also wanted to plant explosives in police installations and other sensitive points in Karachi. According to police, the men were armed with 75kg of cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine (RDX) explosives, three Kalashnikov assault rifles and a TT-model pistol, commonly used as a police sidearm in Pakistan but also made by the gunsmiths of the Khyber region. The seizure followed a larger one last week, which netted two suicide jackets, four Kalashnikovs, 17 hand grenades, nine detonators and a variety of ammunition for mortars, RPGs and rifles. Police claim these weapons belonged to the same Karachi cell of the TTP (Daily Times, October 19).

Further raids by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of the Sindh police on October 21 resulted in the arrest of Muhammad Sahib Khan (a.k.a. Qasai) in Sohrab Goth, as well as two accomplices in other parts of the city. According to police, Muhammad Sahib Khan confessed to being tied to a Swat-based TTP commander named Farooq. He was found in possession of a suicide vest and was already wanted by police for involvement in murders, assassinations, kidnappings and attacks on security services. Police charged Muhammad Sahib Khan and his accomplices with “trying to establish a Taliban network in Karachi,” as well as “plotting terrorist activities, including suicide bombings.” They were also accused of destroying schools in the Swat valley (The News, October 21; Dawn [Karachi], October 21).

According to Pakistan’s Daily Times, some 60 second-level Taliban leaders evaded the government’s offensive in Swat earlier this year by traveling by train in small groups to Karachi, where the Karachi TTP arranged for their transit by plane to various points in the Gulf states (Daily Times [Lahore], October 19). The transfer went unnoticed because many natives of Malakand work in these same Middle Eastern states.

Mahsudi tribesmen who have fled the turmoil in their native South Waziristan for Karachi suburbs like Sohrab Goth report shakedowns by local police who threaten to arrest them as TTP members, as well as marginalization by government agencies on the basis of ethnicity, which local elders claim threatens to drive peaceful Mahsudis into the arms of the Taliban (The News, October 21). Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani took the unusual step of writing an open letter to the Mahsud tribe, assuring them that the current operations in South Waziristan were aimed only at terrorists rather than the tribe as a whole (The Hindu, October 19).

Though it lies over 1,000 miles from the military operations in the tribal regions of northwestern Pakistan, the port of Karachi has become a target of Taliban and al-Qaeda associated militants since April, when members of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorist group were detained while planning attacks on local transportation firms responsible for shipping supplies destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan. A campaign of threats and bombings is intended to disrupt the NATO supply chain, which relies on Pakistani companies and drivers to transport supplies along the 1,200 mile route from Karachi to the Khyber Pass.  Karachi, the starting point of the route, was once regarded as a safe port, but recently it has been subject to infiltration by Taliban and al-Qaeda sabotage units. Earlier this month security forces arrested five members of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorist group who were planning attacks on transportation firms responsible for shipping NATO supplies to Peshawar. This followed a similar roundup of militants last January after they threatened transporters not to carry NATO supplies.

The new Karachi Taliban leader, who gave an interview to the Daily Times on condition of anonymity, said the local TTP chapter was in accord with the ideology of TTP leader Hakimullah Mahsud but was not authorized to carry out operations (Daily Times, October 19).


This article first appeared in the October 30, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Senior al-Qaeda Commander Abu Yahya al-Libi Condemns President Obama and the “Criminal Army of Pakistan”

Andrew McGregor

October 30, 2009

Establishing al-Qaeda’s battle is about establishing universal “servitude to God,” according to senior al-Qaeda commander Abu Yahya al-Libi who has expressed pride in the fact that his movement has no other agenda: “We are not a group that is concerned with finding economic solutions. We are not a group that is concerned with building skyscrapers. We are not a group that is concerned with finding solutions to social problems. All these problems were a result of people’s deviations, and occurred after the people agreed to become servants to other than God, the Great and Almighty.” The message was contained in a 45 minute video of al-Libi’s sermon on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr in September and posted to the web on October 27 (Al-Sahab Establishment for Media Production/Al-Fajr Media Center).

Pak Army in SwatPakistan Army in Swat

Typical of al-Qaeda and Taliban statements, al-Libi’s sermon heaped abuse upon President Obama, referring to him as a “black crow” who delivered a speech in Cairo while people clapped for him “as if he were Umar bin Abd al-Aziz” (an early 8th century Ummayad caliph renowned for his piety). “Obama has become the holder of the slogan of ‘change’ and the owner of the slogan of ‘openness.’ Through this openness, scores of people are being killed in Afghanistan on a daily basis and nobody hears of them.”

Al-Libi expresses his disdain for those “insane and defeated people” who urge coexistence with the non-Islamic world and mocks Western perceptions of what constitutes “acceptable” Islam: “If you become democratic, modern, or Western, the people will be content with you and praise and recognize you as a moderate and balanced Muslim.”  Al-Libi expresses astonishment that the Prophet Muhammad was never able to establish coexistence “among his people and in his house and homeland,” yet the means to coexistence have suddenly been “discovered in the 21st century.”

The senior al-Qaeda commander also condemned the “criminal Pakistani army that destroyed Swat,” asking why the army was fighting Muslims who wanted nothing more than the “Shari’a of Almighty God”

As he concluded the sermon, al-Libi called on the “mujahideen brothers all over the world” to trust in monotheism as a means of unifying their movement. Considering the source, al-Libi issued a rather surprising appeal for militant factions to be more conciliatory and less insistent in their belief that only they have the correct course of action and right to operate. “I say that there can be no possible agreement unless some groups are willing to concede some of their rights. That is a necessity. If a group holds fast to its right and the other group holds fast to its right, or what it claims to be its right, what kind of agreement or unity can be done after that?”

More specifically, al-Libi appealed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Ansar al-Islam to resolve their differences and “unite in one group and one rank.” Similarly, al-Libi also called on the Salafi mujahideen groups in Palestine to “get rid of the causes of division, disagreement, and dispute. There must be some kind of concession to make agreement and unity possible. Concession is necessary for the hearts to rejoin.”


This article first appeared in the October 30, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Pakistani Taliban Commander Describes Counter-Measures against UAV Attacks

Andrew McGregor

October 23, 2009

A commander of the Pakistan Taliban, Sahimullah Mahsud, recently provided a description of the measures taken by the Taliban forces and leadership to lower the impact of the American Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) missile attacks which have claimed the lives of scores of Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders in northwestern Pakistan, including the late leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mahsud. Based in South Waziristan, where he is a deputy to new Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud, Sahimullah provided the details in an interview with the Brussels-based Le Soir daily (October 12).

Drone 1Sahimullah described the UAV counter-measures as being based on “mobility, secrecy and anonymity”:

• If a drone is heard, fighters must disperse into small groups of no more than four people. The Taliban have weapons capable of shooting down the drones, but lack the technology to detect their approach.

• Satellite or SMS [a form of text messaging on mobile phones] forms of communication are no longer used. All communications are done orally or by code.

• Meetings are announced only at the last minute, with nothing planned in advance in order to avoid leaks. Even senior commanders do not know the precise location of regional commanders.

• Taliban leaders have reduced the size of their security escorts to one or two men “in whom they have complete confidence.”

• Taliban security agents are constantly checking the identity and credentials of those active within the movement.

The Taliban commander added that the movement has many sympathizers within the Pakistan army and the security forces in Afghanistan who provide useful intelligence on infiltration efforts, the progress of NATO convoys and the timing and location of American or Pakistani military operations. American weapons are bought from the personnel of the Afghan National Army or seized in raids on NATO convoys.

Sahimullah claimed the Taliban were ready for the Pakistani offensive in South Waziristan: “We have about 20,000 fighters and we can move from one side of the border to the other as needed. We are very mobile. In eight years the United States and NATO have not managed to defeat the Taliban. How do you expect a few Pakistani soldiers, tanks, and planes to get the better of us! It is impossible!”

This article first appeared in the October 23, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

U.S. Trained “Colonel Imam” Discusses Bin Laden, Stinger Missiles and the Taliban

Andrew McGregor

September 25, 2009

Karachi’s Geo News conducted an interview on September 13 with Colonel Imam, a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer who is best known as “the Father of the Taliban” for his crucial role in helping establish the movement in Afghanistan. Colonel Imam’s real name is Amir Sultan Tarar, though he notes “My actual name has been forgotten by the people; I am mostly known as Colonel Imam now… The Afghan people gave me this name because I lead the prayers.”

Colonel ImamAmir Sultan Tarar, a.k.a. “Colonel Imam”

Colonel Imam spoke of his cultural integration into Afghan Pashtun society during his days as an ISI officer, but noted the continued survival of pre-Islamic Pashtun customs; the Pashtuns “have camouflaged the Pashtun culture [with Islam], except the Taliban, who have always practiced Islam in its true spirit. I have observed the Taliban closely; they are very simple, sincere, truthful and strong believers.”

Colonel Imam also recalled his training from U.S. Special Forces at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg in the 1970s. “A visit to the United States was as an incentive given by the Pakistan Army. We would get to study a more refined curriculum with the help of advanced technology. My subject was ‘explosive sabotage’… When I would perform prayers, they would look at me with amazement.”

The former ISI agent described the beginning of his association with Afghanistan in the 1970s, when he was asked by then-Brigadier Nasirullah Babar (later Major General and Interior Minister in the government of Benazir Bhutto) to organize and train Islamic students fleeing from a crackdown by the communist regime in Kabul. Among those trained by Colonel Imam were current Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the late ethnic-Tajik guerrilla leader Ahmad Shah Masud and Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Colonel complains that by 1988, the ISI’s authority over the Afghan mujahideen had been “hijacked” by the United States.

On the controversial issue of the distribution of U.S. supplied Stinger missiles, Colonel Imam denied accusations that he sold some of the stock of 2,000 American Stingers, saying this was done instead by Benazir Bhutto’s government after it had decided to reduce the size of the military mission in Afghanistan. “I was supposed to get the missiles back. We knew those Stinger missiles were being sold in the market. Six missiles were smuggled to Iran and three to North Korea, while the remaining stock was kept by the mujahideen themselves.”

The former ISI operative distanced himself from Osama Bin Laden, particularly during the period surrounding the 9/11 attacks. “He was not in contact with me at that time. It was the Jalalabad operation in 1990 when I last met Bin Laden… He was just an ordinary citizen who would get frightened by the sight of bombing.”

In December 2008, it was reported that Amir Sultan (Colonel Imam) was one of four names of former ISI officials sent by the United States to the U.N. Security Council for inclusion in the Security Council’s list of designated international terrorists (Islam Online, December 4, 2008). Colonel Imam responded, “By blaming the retired people, it is a conspiracy to tighten the noose around Pakistan’s ISI” (AKI, December 9, 2008).

The former ISI official is open about his support for the Taliban but denies that he and retired General Hamid Gul continue to fund the Taliban, saying, “As far as support is concerned, I said in front of Americans at a seminar that I do support the Taliban. I pray for their success but neither I nor General Hamid Gul has the money to give to the Taliban. We are retired people living hand to mouth. This is an electronic age—any transaction can be traced any time. If they have any proof, bring it forward” (AKI, December 9, 2008).

This article first appeared in the September 25, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor