ISLAMABAD: Taliban ousted from Swat by a military offensive last year are regrouping in Mohmand tribal region to launch guerilla warfare in the valley next summer, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Qari Abdul Jabbar, a militant from Timergara area of Lower Dir, may be the new face of militancy in Swat and adjoining districts to replace their runaway commander Maulvi Fazlullah, intelligence officials and Taliban associates from Mohmand said.
Abdul Jabbar, distinct from his namesake Maulvi Abdul Jabbar of a breakaway faction of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), is said to be in late 20s or early 30s.
Hitherto little known Qari is leading in Mohmand, one of the seven troubled tribal areas, a small group of around 300 to 400 militants chased out of Swat by the military in an operation between April and July of 2009.
But intelligence officials and locals in Swat and Dir districts said the group was growing both in number of its associates and influence.
“It is not worrying at the moment…doesn’t pose any serious challenge. But it can be another headache for Pakistani anti-terror agencies if it keeps on getting bigger,” one official commented. He did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
In Timergara, locals said they had heard about Qari Jabbar visiting the area with his lieutenants some time ago.
Pakistani security forces have been fighting the Taliban led by commander Omar Khalid (Abdul Wali) in Mohmand, but some pockets of resistance continue to be a source of worry.
On Monday, a twin suicide bombing attack in Ghalanai area of the agency, which killed 43 people, targeted a tribal lashkar and pro-government tribal elders. A Taliban spokesperson had claimed responsibility for the attack.
It is not clear whether Qari will raise a separate militant group from within the Swat Taliban or actually replace Maulvi Fazlullah, (Mullah Radio), who once led the insurgency in the valley but fled after the operation.
Fazlullah was once spotted in Afghan eastern provinces of Nuristan and Kunar, but according to some reports he is back in Pakistan and might be either in North Waziristan or Orakzai Agency.
Intelligence officials said resurgent Taliban will not be able to regain control of the upper parts of Swat from the military, but are likely to restrict their fight to hit-and-run tactic, an ideal guerilla warfare approach.
Officials said there had already been some skirmishes between the security forces and Taliban in some parts of the valley recently.
In most cases, militants came from outside Swat. “We are getting ready for the same thing happening in the future,” one official said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2010.