PAKISTAN

Pakistani Taliban pledges support for IS militants

3 min

The Pakistani Taliban announced its allegiance to the Islamic State group on Saturday and ordered its jihadists to help the militants in their campaign to set up a global Islamic caliphate.

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In a message to mark the Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Adha, the Pakistani Taliban said they fully supported the goals of the Islamic State group.

“Oh our brothers, we are proud of you in your victories. We are with you in your happiness and your sorrow,” Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement emailed to Reuters from an unknown location.

Islamic State militants already control large stretches of land across both Syria and Iraq but have recently begun making advances into South Asia, which has traditionally been dominated by local insurgencies against both the Pakistani and Afghan governments.

Although there is little evidence yet of a firm alliance between the Islamic State group and al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban commanders, Islamic State fighters have been spotted recently in the Pakistani city of Peshawar distributing pamphlets.

The Islamic State group's trademark black flags have also been seen at street rallies in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Saturday's announcement comes after a September move by al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri to name former Taliban commander Asim Umar as the “emir” of a new South Asia branch of the terrorist network.

The Pakistani Taliban's statement went on to call for Islamist groups to forget their differences for the sake of unity.

“In these troubled days, we call for your patience and stability, especially now that all your enemies are united against you. Please put all your rivalries behind you," it said.

“All Muslims in the world have great expectations of you ... We are with you, we will provide you with Mujahideen (fighters) and with every possible support.”

The statement, released in Urdu, Pashto and Arabic, was sent a day after Islamic State militants beheaded British aid worker Alan Henning in a video posted online Friday, triggering condemnation by the British and US governments.

The move appears to defy recent speculation that the Pakistani Taliban, whose goal is to topple the government and set up a sharia state, is actually wary of the Islamic State group, which is driven by different ambitions that have little to do with South Asia.

Funded by local as well as foreign charity donations from wealthy supporters in the Gulf and elsewhere, the Pakistani Taliban operate separately from the Afghan insurgents of the same name but are loosely aligned with them.

There are also concerns that groups like the Haqqani network will likely exploit the security vacuum to strengthen their hold on Afghan territory following the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year.

The Haqqani network, despite being based in Pakistan, is narrowly focused on an insurgency in Afghanistan and has not commented publicly on recent developments regarding the Islamic State group.

The Pakistani Taliban have been beset by bitter internal rivalries over the past year, with the influential Mehsud tribal faction of the group refusing to accept the authority of Mullah Fazlullah, who came to power in late 2013.

Islamic State militants could move to exploit these rivalries by making inroads into a region rife with anti-Western ideology and full of young, unemployed men ready to take up arms to fight for Islam.

Meanwhile, world powers in both the Middle East and the West are struggling to keep up with the fast-changing nature of an international jihadist insurgency.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

 

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