Pakistani Taliban send Arab, Uzbek fighters to Syria

Last Updated: Saturday, July 13, 2013 - 18:34

Islamabad: The Pakistani Taliban are sending their Arab and Uzbek comrades to Syria to fight against the forces of embattled President Bashar al-Assad, Taliban sources said on Saturday.

"There is no plan to open a formal office in Syria but our people will fight against the forces of Bashar al-Assad," a Taliban source said.

"In the first step, mostly trainers, who are expert in guerrilla warfare, are going there," the source said.

Taliban sources said the fighters shifting from Pakistan to Syria included Arab, Uzbek and Chechen extremists who had been living in the mountainous tribal regions since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Ahead of the US drawdown in 2014, the interest of foreign militants in Pakistan`s lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border is waning, and most of them have begun relocating to other places as part of the global jihadist movement.

The Syrian situation is inviting for Taliban and their Salafi Arab supporters and fighters, who have a natural sympathy for the anti-government forces of mostly Sunni Muslims pitched against the Shia ruler al-Assad.

It is also believed that continuous US drone attacks and repeated operations by Pakistani forces have considerably weakened the foreign fighters and reduced their ability to launch organised attacks. There are also reports that the Taliban have set up a cell in Syria operated by Arab fighters who moved to that country from the tribal areas.

In Pakistan, militant commander Muhammad Amin has been appointed a coordinator to facilitate networking with the Syrian chapter.

Earlier, BBC Urdu reported the Pakistani Taliban had set up a base in Syria to assess "the needs of the jihad" and at least 12 of its experts in warfare and information technology had visited the strife-torn country in the past two months.

Quoting a "senior Pakistani Taliban operative", BBC Urdu said the base was set up with the help of ex-Afghan fighters of Middle Eastern origin who moved to Syria in recent years.

Amin, the coordinator with the Syrian chapter, told BBC that the cell to monitor "the jihad" in Syria was set up six months ago.

"They were facilitated by our friends in Syria who have previously been fighting in Afghanistan," Amin said.

Their job is to "assess the needs of the jihad in Syria, and to work out joint operations with our Syrian friends".

"There are dozens of Pakistani hopefuls in line to join the fighting against the Syrian Army, but the advice we are getting at the moment is that there`s already enough manpower in Syria," he said.

In the past, Pakistani militants have fought in Jammu and Kashmir, Central Asia and the Baltic region.

It is said that the Harkatul Mujahideen sent dozens of fighters to Bosnia to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s conflict with the Serbians.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013 - 17:04

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