ISLAMABAD: A prominent militant commander of a Taliban group led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an associate of the Haqqani network, was killed in North Waziristan Agency on Sunday during a clash with a rival group.
A tribal leader told The Express Tribune by phone that three militants attacked a convoy of security forces by blowing up an improvised explosive device in the Qutab Khel area, some four kilometres from Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency.
Five officials were injured but the attackers were able to flee the scene and were later intercepted by the Taliban.
Exchange of harsh words led to an armed clash and resultantly Taliban commander Muhammad Hanif and one of the attackers were killed. The two other attackers managed to escape.
The slain commander belonged to Bura Khel Wazir tribe and was very active in the area. Tribesmen said that Hanif was well-known to the locals and was quite famous at a time when Taliban leaders avoid public appearances due to frequent US drone strikes.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur group of the Taliban is not part of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). There have been several attacks on the security forces in recent weeks despite a peace deal signed between the security forces and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in 2007.
Locals said that the Taliban commander’s murder caused tension in the area and there could be an angry reaction from the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group. The group has not yet issued a statement on the incident.
Every Sunday, curfew is declared in North Waziristan for the safe movement of the convoys of security forces but militants are still able to launch attacks.
On August 14, rockets were fired on the fort of security forces in Razmak town of North Waziristan. No one was hurt in the attack. Hafiz Gul Bahadur was made deputy of Baitullah Mehsud when the TTP was formed in 2007. But soon after, Gul Bahadur’s group had distanced itself from the TTP fearing a harsh backlash from the government. Gul Bahadur is a descendant of the Faqir of Ipi, a legendary fighter known for his innovative insurrection against British occupation in the 1930s and 1940. He rose to prominence in 2004 following military operations in North Waziristan and coordinates closely with the Haqqani network. Pakistan has been increasingly under pressure from the United States to go launch a military operation in North Waziristan against the Haqqanis who they blame for stoking the Taliban insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2011.