Main network of Pakistani Taliban open to alliance with rivals after formation of breakaway group
ISLAMABAD – In a bid to overcome divisions within its network, the main Pakistani Taliban group has announced it is prepared to work with former rivals in northwestern North Waziristan province, a spokesperson said Monday.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid said in a press release that it was willing to co-operate with the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, who had previously held an alliance with the government since 2007, against a "common enemy."
"The army has been carrying out air strikes not against us but against the innocent civilians of North Waziristan,” said Shahid, claiming that the TTP does not have any hideouts or bases in the region.
The Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who reportedly has a trained force of 3,000 militants, abandoned a peace agreement with the security forces in May. They said they were protesting against recent air strikes in North Waziristan which the government says killed 130 militants but locals say mostly killed civilians.
The army has given North Waziristan tribal leaders 15 days to oust “foreign militants” hiding in the region or prepare for further air strikes.
Shahid said the TTP was still ready for peace talks with the government but that attacks on security forces would continue until a permanent ceasefire was agreed.
Shahid has already claimed the TTP was responsible for an attack on Karachi International Airport that killed 30 people, including ten militants, on Sunday night. He said the audacious attack was revenge for the killing of the network’s former chief Hakeemullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike in November 2013.
“Attack on Karachi airport had been finalized before the ceasefire, however it was deferred as the TTP fully complied with the ceasefire,” he said, referring to a 40-day Taliban ceasefire with security forces that ended in April.
The TTP conceded a major blow two weeks ago when the powerful Mehsud group, which led 40 per cent of the network’s fighters, parted with the TTP and elected its own chief.
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