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November 20, 2012

Is TTP’s Omar Khalid behind attack on Qazi?

World

AFP
November 20, 2012

LAHORE: The November 19 attack by a female suicide bomber targeting Qazi Hussain Ahmed’s convoy was masterminded by Commander Omar Khalid, the Mohmand Agency’s Ameer of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which had been gunning for the former Jamaat-e-Islami leader for months.
He was sought because of his April 2012 interview wherein he had described the Afghan Taliban’s resistance against the US-led Coalition Forces in Afghanistan as “true jehad” and that of the Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan as “un-Islamic”.
The former Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer narrowly escaped a bomb attack on Monday when a female suicide bomber, who was wearing a burqa, exploded herself near Qazi Hussain’s convoy in the Mohmand tribal agency.
The pieces of female clothes and hair found from the site make the investigators believe that the suicide bomber was a lady”. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far, which seems unusual, the fact remains that Qazi Hussain had been on TTP’s hit list for the past seven months – since his April 2012 interview which had prompted Hakimullah to criticise him in an audio message, accusing him of supporting “the US-allied rulers of Pakistan”. It was the first time that Hakimullah, who was in hiding at that time, had publicly criticized Qazi in a special audio message and questioned his stance.
Hakimullah’s anti-Qazi stance was somewhat unusual in the sense that he had never publicly criticized any religious leader and that too through a special audio message.In his message which was mostly in Pashto and made and distributed by the Umer Media on April 20, 2012, Hakimullah had quoted from the Holy Quran to substantiate his case against the Qazi.
Citing a Geo TV interview with Qazi Hussain which was conducted in April 2012, the TTP chief said the Jamaat leader was totally wrong in his interpretation of the Afghan Taliban’s resistance in Afghanistan as true jehad and that of the TTP in Pakistan as un-Islamic.
“Both the Karzai regime in Afghanistan as well as the Pakistan government are allies of the United States. In Afghanistan, the US is occupying Bagram and Jalalabad and other airbases while in Pakistan, the Americans were in control of the Jacobabad airbase. Thus, is there any difference between the fight being waged by the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban as both are waging jehad?” Hakimullah Mehsud had asked.
While addressing Qazi Hussain, the TTP chief further added in his audio message: “There was a time when educated people, students, ulema and others used to respect you a lot. But I can no longer trust you, Qazi sahib. Why are you calling our battle “fasaad” instead of jehad?”
As the media had approached Qazi Hussain to get his reaction, the latter simply refused to comment on Hakimullah’s message, saying. “I know about the existence of this videotape, but I have no comments to make.”
Those investigating the Monday suicide attack say it is hard for the counter terrorism agencies to spot burqa-clad female bombers who can easily conceal deadly explosives under all-enveloping burqas without being intercepted.
The last time a lady bomber was used by the TTP in Pakistan was on August 11, 2011 when a 17-year old burqa-clad girl had exploded herself close to a police check post in the Lahori Gate area of Peshawar, killing seven people including five policemen. Witnesses have been reported as saying that they had heard the girl scream before exploding herself: “Allah-O-Akbar” (The God is great). Interestingly, the TTP had quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, with Commander Omar Khalid, the TTP Chief in the Mohmand Agency, telling the media they have a large number of women suicide bombers who would be used in future attacks against the security forces to avenge the Pakistani military operations in the tribal belt.
Omar Khalid had further threatened of more suicide attacks until the Pakistani military offensives, which he said were being waged to appease the United States, come to an end. “The suicide attacks were in reaction to the current military operation in the tribal areas,” Omar had told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location on August 11, 2011. The TTP leader said using female bombers was part of a new strategy as strategies keep changing in war.”
Omar is a senior deputy of Hakimullah and is considered one of the most effective and powerful Taliban leaders in the tribal areas. He maintains close ties to al-Qaeda and is believed to have given sanctuary to Dr Ayman al Zawahiri in the past.
Omar Khalid is also allied with Commander Qari Zia Rahman, the dual-hat Taliban and al-Qaeda leader who operates in tribal agencies of Mohmand and Bajaur as well as in Afghanistan’s provinces of Kunar and Nuristan which are currently being used by the Malala-fame Mullah Fazlullah to carry out cross-border ambushes against Pakistani security forces.
Qari Zia runs several male and female suicide training camps in remote areas of north western Pakistan and north eastern Afghanistan. Zia’s private army has fighters from Pakistan, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and several Arab countries. He commands a brigade in al-Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army, which is called the Lashkar-e-Zil (LeZ), previously led by Commander Ilyas Kashmiri, who was killed in a US drone strike in July 2011.