Taliban vow more attacks against Pak govt, military facilities
Islamabad: The Taliban have vowed to launch more "high-profile" attacks against government and military installations in Pakistan, saying that the terror group's aim is to force the authorities here to end their alliance with the US.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Maulana Faqir Mohammad said his group, which was earlier focussing on the war in Afghanistan, had changed its strategy and would now launch more large-scale attacks against Pakistani security forces like the one on the PNS Mehran naval airbase in Karachi and assaults that targeted border check posts in Dir region of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Individual strikes by militants in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of Pakistan will continue but the "preferred option would be to mount high-profile attacks against government and military installations," Mohammad told The News daily.
Mohammad, who was deputy head of the TTP before disappearing from the scene last year amid reports that he had patched up with the government, spoke to the media after a considerable gap.
The commander "appeared determined to carry on his fight with the Pakistani state," the report said.
Mohammad's remarks marked the first time that a TTP commander has explained the group's new strategy.
"Our new strategy of launching big attacks on military installations was aimed at causing demoralisation in the ranks of the security forces and tiring out the government. We also want to limit civilian casualties. Our ultimate objective is to force the government to end its alliance with the US," Mohammad said.
Ten security personnel were killed and two US-made surveillance aircraft destroyed when a small band of heavily-armed Taliban fighters attacked the PNS Mehran base in Karachi on May 22.
Separately, nearly 30 security personnel were killed after hundreds of Taliban fighters sneaked into the remote Dir region from Afghanistan and targeted security forces earlier this week.
Clashes in the region are still continuing.
Asked why the Pakistani Taliban were attacking targets within the country and killing fellow Muslims and Pakistanis, Mohammad said the Pakistani security forces first attacked them and forced them to retaliate.
"We turned our attention to Pakistan when we were attacked. Before that our attention was focused on the war in Afghanistan," he said. Mohammad warned that the Pakistani militants would become "increasingly involved in the fight" against the Pakistan government and security forces.
"If a military operation is carried out in North Waziristan, the militants presently staying away from the battle against Pakistan's security forces will also turn their guns (on) Pakistan," he said.
Asked how Pakistani militants were operating from Afghan soil without the Afghan government and NATO forces taking action against them, Mohammad said there were areas in Afghanistan's border provinces like Kunar and Nuristan where authorities and US-led foreign forces had no control.
"The militants control these places. It is propaganda against us that the Afghan government is supporting the Pakistani Taliban," he said.
Mohammad said the TTP and al Qaeda were separate organisations but sometimes had similar objectives.
He said the attacks within Pakistan were being carried out by the TTP and its affiliates.
"Militants previously aligned with al Qaeda are coming under the fold of the TTP and contributing to its strength," he claimed.
There were reports earlier that some Taliban elements in Bajaur tribal agency had developed differences with Mohammad.
The commander, who said he was speaking from somewhere in Afghanistan close to the Pakistan border, claimed he was in touch with Pakistani Taliban head Hakimullah Mahsud and other top commanders through couriers and other means.
Asked about reports that the Pakistani Taliban might be receiving funds from India, Mohammad said: "India is ruled by non-Muslims. We have always considered India an enemy country. How can we accept funding from the Indians?"