ISLAMABAD: The chief and deputy chief of a Taliban splinter group have resigned, the faction’s spokesman announced on Wednesday, as security forces intensified air and ground offensives against militants in Khyber Agency.
“Maulana Qasim Omar Khorasani, chief of TTP Jamaatul Ahrar, and Omar Khalid Khorasani, the supreme commander of the group, have resigned voluntarily,” spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a statement emailed to the media. “Jamaatul Ahrar’s Executive Council has accepted their resignations,” he added.
The change in Jamaatul Ahrar’s leadership comes days after the splinter group announced its merger with Mullah Fazlullah’s TTP, along with the Lashkar-e-Islam (LI). On the subject of the merger, Ehsan said the three groups will maintain their independent identity but share a central council and central organisational body.
Commander Asad Afridi has been nominated as the acting Jamaatul Ahrar chief, according to Ehsan. Afridi served earlier as the head of Jamaatul Ahrar’s Khyber Agency chapter. He was also a member of TTP’s central council until Jamaatul Ahrar parted ways with TTP. Ehsan added that the central council will soon elect its new leader and a new central council.
Given the rarity of top Taliban leaders resigning, the announcement triggered speculation about internal rifts in Jamaatul Ahrar ranks. But Ehsan denied there were any differences between members of the group and said the move was in line with their constitution.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2015.