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Taliban warn of revenge attacks, rule out talks with govt

By Snehesh Alex Philip
November 08, 2013 17:07 IST
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With hardline commander Mullah Fazlullah at its helm, the Pakistani Taliban has vowed to launch a wave of revenge attacks and ruled out talks with the government.

Security agencies have warned government officials of a severe backlash from the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan after former leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike on Friday.

The backlash may include targeting security and government installations in Punjab province, the central leadership of the ruling PML-N and the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The TTP named Fazlullah, the former Taliban commander from SwatValley, as its new chief on Thursday. Media reports said Fazlullah, known as "Mullah Radio", has refused to hold any talks with the government.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid was quoted by The News daily as saying the group's Shura or council had unanimously decided that no peace talks will be held with the government.

He claimed the Taliban made several attempts in the past to hold meaningful talks with the government but they were "deceived".

"We won’t allow the rulers again to deceive us in the name of peace talks. There is no benefit of fruitless talks with the government. It's a puppet government of the US and has killed our amir (chief)," he said.

Taliban elements believe the government had a role in the killing of Mehsud by a CIA-operated drone and that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan's criticism of the drone attack was meant to deceive the militants and the people.

Khan ruled out any Pakistani involvement in the strike that killed Mehsud, but the TTP leadership alleges that intelligence about his presence in a secret meeting in North Waziristan was provided to the US by Pakistani authorities.

Quoting sources in security agencies, The News reported that the TTP leadership had decided to avenge Mehsud's killing by shifting the focus of their terrorist activities to urban and central Punjab.

Fazlullah, who ordered the assassination of teenage activist Malala Yusufzai and led a brutal rule in SwatValley during 2007-09, is known for his ruthlessness. Under his command, the Taliban enforced a harsh form of Shariah or Islamic law and public executions, floggings and the bombing of girls' schools were common.

When the Pakistan Army sent troops into Swat to flush out the militants in early 2009, Fazlullah fled with hundreds of his fighters to Afghanistan, from where he ordered the unsuccessful attempt on the life of Yusufzai last year.

Earlier this year, the Taliban released a video to claim the killing of Maj Gen Sanaullah Khan Niazi in a roadside bombing which showed Fazlullah celebrating the success of the attack.

Former chief military spokesman Athar Abbas said Fazlullah was a ruthless killer and the army and civil administration in Swat have had experience of dealing with him.

"During his reign of terror, Green Chowk in Swat became infamous. It was the place where he used to execute people in public," he said.

Fazlullah became strong in 2005 because of the then provincial government. He continued to grow and captured the whole of SWAT and then entered Dir and Buner districts.

"That is when it was seen by many that he has come close to Islamabad and the military moved in," Abbas said. The military carried out three operations in Swat and finally pushed out the Taliban in 2009.

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Snehesh Alex Philip in Islamabad
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