‘Al Qaeda in Pakistan grooming new leadership’

Militant groups are splitting into small cells to confuse counter-terror agencies.

Last Updated: Apr 04, 2011, 23:14 PM IST

Islamabad: Al Qaeda and affiliated
militant groups based in Pakistan`s restive tribal belt are
grooming alternative leaders and splitting into small cells to
confuse counter-terror agencies and to survive in the face of
sudden fatalities, a media report said on Monday.

The groups, including the Haqqani network, have been
following this pattern for some time and "unusual changes" are
expected in months to come, The Express Tribune newspaper
quoted intelligence officials in Islamabad and associates of
the groups in South and North Waziristan Agencies as saying.

The Afghan Taliban led by Maulana Sirajuddin Haqqani
and his father Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, supposedly the
strongest of Al Qaeda`s partners, might be promoting a new
leader to undertake the group`s operational and organisational
activities, the report said.

Badaruddin, one of the sons of Maulana Jalaluddin
Haqqani, will be introduced to the world as the network`s main
operative, leading the group and spearheading its operations
across Pakistan-Afghanistan border, it said.

"He is up and coming...very soon he will be a
household name in the world of terror," said an unnamed
official.

Jalaluddin`s elder son, Sirajuddin, has so far been
leading the network his father established almost two decades
ago to fight the communist regime in Afghanistan after the
former Soviet Union withdrew its forces from that country.

The network, comprising the Pakti clan of Afghan
militants based in Paktia and Paktika, has been operating from
the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan after the US-led
invasion uprooted the Taliban regime in Kabul.

This change of leadership was a "strategic move to
make sure that there will not be any crisis if one leader got
killed", one of the group`s associates told the daily.

However, intelligence officials said they suspected
another reason.

"It is to save him from the public exposure...they
don`t feel safe after an intensified drone campaign against
them by the US," an official said.

Sirajuddin was the real inspirational character in the
network and a replacement for Jalaluddin and the militant
groups wanted to have him whether he led its operations or
not, the official said.

Another Al Qaeda-affiliated group based in same region
and led by veteran militant leader Ilyas Kashmiri too is in
the process of creating several small cells to cause confusion
and for the division of labour.

The Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami was converted to Al
Qaeda`s 313 Brigade and then renamed as Lashkar-e-Zil,
officials and local residents said.

PTI