PESHAWAR: Four top Pakistani Taliban commanders were reportedly killed in a mysterious explosion triggered by an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Birmal area of Afghanistan’s Paktika province on Sunday, senior leaders of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) told The News.
They included Maulvi Abdul Wali aka Maulvi Omar Khalid Khurasani, Mufti Hasan, Hafiz Dawlat Khan and the son-in-law of Abdul Wali. “They were travelling in a vehicle in Paktika province where they died in a mysterious blast. We have received the bodies and are investigating whether they were killed in a drone strike or in an IED explosion,” a senior member of the Pakistani Taliban told The News on condition of anonymity.
He said their senior leaders never travelled in one vehicle but he was not aware what were the circumstances that compelled them to sit in one vehicle. “We started investigations to ascertain who could have been involved in their killings. After the investigations are complete, we will issue a detailed statement whether or not to continue the peace talks with Pakistan,” he said.
Maulvi Abdul Wali was a founding member of the banned TTP, a conglomeration of all Pakistani militant factions, when it was formed by Baitullah Mahsud in December 2014 in North Waziristan.
He was close to Baitullah Mahsud and was made the TTP chief for Mohmand tribal district. In 2014, he developed differences with the TTP leadership, then headed by Maulana Fazlullah of Swat, and was expelled from the mainstream militant network.
The TTP leadership then blamed him for violating the code of conduct, carrying out attacks in civilian places and allegedly collecting extortions. Abdul Wali had, however, rejected these allegations.
In 2014, he formed his own faction, TTP-Jamaat-ul-Ahrar that restricted its activities to his native Mohmand tribal district, and its adjoining Charsadda and Peshawar districts. He was accused of masterminding and organising several attacks in Mohmand, Charsadda, Peshawar, and Mardan districts.
He had also claimed some deadly attacks in Punjab and Sindh provinces when he headed his splitter group- TTP-JuA. In Pakistan, he was wanted by the government for several terrorist activities and had mentioned him in the Red Book of Most Wanted High Profile Terrorists.
In March 2018, the US State Department’s Reward for Justice placed a $3 million bounty on his head. Taliban sources said it was the second attack on their members of the peace negotiation committee holding talks with Pakistan. Before this, the Taliban said a prominent militant Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad was targeted by a drone in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in which he had narrowly escaped.
Taliban sources said Maulvi Faqir Mohammad was among the senior TTP leaders and was presently playing a crucial role in the peace process with Pakistan. Members of the Pakistani negotiation committee also told The News that Maulvi Faqir’s role was helpful in the talks. His elder brother in Bajaur is also a member of the Pakistani jirga. Taliban sources said that Maulvi Abdul Wali, Mufti Hasan and Hafiz Dawlat Khan had many enemies in the past, particularly when they parted ways with the mainstream TTP and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
Taliban said they would investigate whether their killing had any connection with their past as presently they didn’t see any major threat to them. According to the Taliban, two of Abdul Wali’s sons married last week.