ISLAMABAD: Laeders of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in Bajaur declared allegiance to the Islamic State or Daish on Thursday.
The pledge is a serious setback for the banned outfit at a time when it is under attack in its last stronghold of Tirah Valley.
“Chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Bajaur Maulana Abu Bakar and his deputy Qari Zahid, all members of the central ‘shura’ (council), commanders, scholars and judges of the Islamic court have recognised Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Khalifa,” Daish spokesperson for the region Shahidullah Shahid said.
Maulana Abu Bakar, an influential Taliban leader, was appointed TTP Bajaur’s chief by Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November 2013.
“TTP Bajaur leaders have declared allegiance to Hafiz Saeed Khan, leader of the Islamic State for Khorasan region,” Shahid told The Express Tribune via phone.
Hafiz Saeed Khan, former TTP chief for Orakzai Agency, was the most influential in TTP ranks. The chief along with five senior leaders, including Shahidullah Shahid, joined Daish in October last year.
Read: Fragmentation: TTP splits over allegiance to IS
On Monday, TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani said the group’s Bajaur chief and his deputy had resigned. However, he refrained from giving reasons for their resignation.
Read: Switching loyalties: TTP chief in Bajaur and his deputy quit
The Taliban have not commented on the new development yet.
The TTP central council has elected Sheikh Gul Muhammad as the new leader of Bajaur and Dr Burhan as the deputy chief.
TTP Bajaur leaders operate from Afghanistan’s border regions, including Kunar, security officials say.
Daish spokesperson said Bajaur leaders have joined Daish as they believe “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has all the qualities of a Khalifa.”
When asked why they changed loyalties from Mullah Omar to al-Baghadai, he said, “Mullah Omar was limited only to Afghanistan and not for the whole Muslims. He was only our Jihadi Ameer and not a Khalifa.”
Read: Afghan Taliban release Mullah Omar biography amid growing frustration within ranks
“We do not know where Mullah Omar is. We have not heard that he considers himself as Ameer. No one has ever asked to declare Mullah Omar as our Ameer,” he added.
Shahid also claimed that more Taliban will soon formally join Daish.
TTP Bajaur leaders joined the militant group days after it claimed an attack on a security forces’ convoy in Orakzai tribal region.
The growing allegiance of TTP leaders to Islamic State reflects the serious challenges the group faces at a time when they have lost ground in North Waziristan and Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency in the wake of a military offensive launched against them in June 2014.
Read: IS emergence sounds alarms in Afghanistan
The situation would also emerge as a new phenomenon in Pakistan and in neighbouring Afghanistan, as reports suggest Taliban white flags have been replaced with Islamic State’s black flags in some parts.
Further, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which considered Mullah Omar as their Ameer for years recently switched loyalties to the Islamic State as well.
Read: Too long a wait: Uzbek militants group joins IS
However, Afghan Taliban have said Mullah Omar is alive and leading the resistance against the foreign and Afghan forces.
The Taliban also issued an autobiography of Mullah Omar, asserting he is still in command of the group.
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