Pakistani Taliban have claimed that they are running three secret camps in South and North Waziristan tribal regions close to the Afghan border to train potential suicide bombers with their total strength exceeding 1,000.
“We have three facilities exclusively for fidayeen (suicide bombers). Each one has more than 350 men being trained in it,” a purported spokesperson for the little-known Fidayeen-e-Islam Group of the Taliban, told The Express Tribune from a secret location in North Waziristan.
The man, who identified himself as Shakirullah Shakir, added that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by Hakimullah Mehsud had recently separated the operations of suicide bombers from the overall activities of the group.
“Fidayeen-e-Islam is a part of the overall chain of command of the TTP but it works separately and has its own structures,” Shakir said but gave little details of the working relationship between the mainstream Taliban leadership and the group handling suicide bombers.
The claim came on the heels of a statement by an alleged teenage suicide bomber who was arrested by the police at the Sakhi Hassan shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan after the vest he was wearing went off only partially, injuring him.
Omar told journalists later at a hospital that he was trained at a camp run by the Taliban with more than 300 people learning how to become the most lethal weapon.
Though there was no way to confirm the claim independently, Shakir said Omar was trained at one of three camps at Mirali town of North Waziristan and what he told the media about the number of under-training bombers was true.
“We own both Omer and his words,” the spokesperson added.
Shakir said one of the biggest camps was in Mirali in the North Waziristan, an agency security and intelligence officials believe was under the control of pro-Pakistan militant groups. He didn’t disclose the locations of two other facilities.
Of the more than 1,000 potential bombers, Shakirullah claimed, a few dozen had already been sent to hit their targets across Pakistan.
He did not say what their targets were but another Taliban associate said the most prominent personalities the terror network now wanted to hit were politicians, some selected people from the media and individuals working with civil society organisations.
Almost a week ago, a spokesperson for the Taliban, Ihsanullah Ihsan, told the Associated Press news agency that both governor and chief minister of Balochistan province were on the hit list of the group.
He did not explain why they were being specifically targeted.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2011.