DERA ISMAIL KHAN: A splinter group of Pakistan's Taliban has pledged support to Islamic State (IS), a spokesperson said on Monday, in another indication of the appeal of the Iraq- and Syria-based militant group in a region traditionally dominated by al Qaeda and local insurgencies.
Jundullah announced its backing after meeting a three-man delegation representing IS led by al Zubair al Kuwaiti, the group's spokesperson Fahad Marwat told Reuters.
The group is one of several Pakistani groups exploring relations with IS, whose fighters have captured swathes of Iraq and Syria in a drive to set up a self-declared caliphate.
Analysts say that so far IS has mainly attracted sectarian groups rather than anti-state militants like the Taliban.
"They (Islamic State) are our brothers, whatever plan they have we will support them," said Jundullah spokesperson Marwat.
His comments follow the release of a video last month by five Pakistani Taliban commanders pledging support to IS. Islamic State also has contacts with the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), militants and security officials said.
"The top leadership of LeJ visited Saudi Arabia and met Islamic State leaders at an undisclosed location at Saudi-Syria border," one militant told Reuters.
He said the meeting took place more than a year ago.
Many Pakistani militants said they felt torn by loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who has strong historical ties to al Qaeda. IS itself broke away from al Qaeda.
"All anti-Shia groups in Pakistan will welcome and support IS in Pakistan, though most of them will not announce it openly due to their allegiance to Mullah Omar," one said.
Jundullah has taken part in attacks on Shias in addition to attacks on members of other religions including the All Saints church bombing in Peshawar last year that left around 80 Christians dead.
Last week, a leaked government memo warned that IS had recruited 10,000-12,000 fighters inside Pakistan, but government insisted that the group had no presence there. Militants and security officials also dismissed the memo as not credible.
Several militants said that hundreds of Pakistanis have gone to fight in Syria, but had done so through the Taliban or on their own.
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