Reality of Ittehad Mujahedeen Khorasan Group of North Waziristan Agency
On 7the September 2011, the North Waziristan Taliban’s head, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and its Shura circulated a pamphlet in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), in which they disassociated themselves from Ittehad Mujahedeen Khorasan (IMK), a secretive militant group operating in NWA and involved in tracking down “spies” working for the US-NATO and Pakistani government. According to the Pamphlet, Bahadur and the Shura members stated that they had repeatedly attempted to prevail upon the members of IMK to reform their ways, but could not succeed in their efforts. The IMK is being accused by local tribesmen for involvement in kidnapping and killing of locals on suspicions of being “spies”. So far, dozens of people have been killed by the group in the Agency and their activities continue unabated.
Following this, hardly two days later, the IMK circulated a pamphlet in the NWA, in which they accused Hafiz Gul Bahadur group to be on the payroll of the Pakistani government, and vowed to target anyone, including the Shura members of NWA Taliban, if found guilty of spying for the US or the Pakistani government. The IMK further stated that they would make confessional videos of the people caught by the IMK on charges of spying, which would be presented to the local populace of NWA as evidence of their involvement in this heinous crime.
The IMK surfaced in the NWA somewhere in 2010. The group’s main task was to identify and punish people for being involved in spying for the US and Pakistani governments in the Agency. The group is composed of local Duar and Uthmanzai Wazir tribesmen drawing a strength of several hundred men. However, the group maintains total secrecy and nobody knows about their rank and file, except members of the North Waziristan Taliban Shura. According to the locals, the members of this group are said to working under cover, and are spread throughout the Agency, operating in the guise of local Taliban militants, farmers, students, traders and shepherds.
On the face, it seems that serious differences have emerged between the two Taliban groups in the NWA. However, the reality could be totally different and these new developments are said to be mere an eyewash. The IMK is basically an intelligence wing of the North Waziristan Taliban and was formed in the wake of killing of many foreign and local militants in US drone strikes in NWA since 2009. To disrupt this network of spies, the IMK was formed by Gul Bahadur group in North Waziristan Agency.
According to local sources, Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led North Waziristan Taliban also offered Hakimullah Mahsud, head of the Pakistan-focused Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to allow some of his men to join the IMK to disrupt spy network in the Agency. However, Mahsud is reported to have declined the offer by saying that if the group arrest spies with solid proof and in broad day light then his men would join the group. However, since the group uses vehicles with tinted glass windows, and wears masks then his men would not join the IMK.
During the past one year, local people in North Waziristan Agency have got disaffected with the activities of IMK. Dozens of people are reported to have been kidnapped by the group and later killed on allegations of spying for the US forces stationed in Afghanistan. In most of these cases, the IMK did not provide any solid evidence of their victim’s involvement in spying for US or Pakistani forces. Due to these activities of the IMK, hatred against the group has reached new heights among the local people, and fear has engulfed local tribesmen of falling prey to the activities of this secret group. This has also generated hatred against Bahadur, since locals believe that he aids and abets the IMK in the Agency. For example, in August 2011, the IMK kidnapped Rehmatullah Wazir, a local journalist from Miranshah, and shifted him to an unknown location.
The kidnapping of Wazir angered the local journalist community, and he remains missing and nobody has so far claimed responsibility for his abduction. There are also fears that Wazir could have been killed by the IMK in order to hide their involvement in his kidnapping. It was precisely in this context that Gul Bahadur and his Shura issued a call dissociating themselves from Khorsan group in order to control the situation and retain the goodwill of the local people. Bahadur’s circular aims to portray the IMK as an independent group that is not functioning under Bahadur and North Waziristan Taliban Shura.
The reality on the ground, however, is starkly opposite to what the pamphlets are stating. If IMK was an independent group, then it would have a leader and it would have an operational base, and its members would be known by the people in the Agency. The pamphlet circulated by Hafiz Gul Bahadur was signed by ten Shura members, including Bahadur himself, but the pamphlet circulated by IMK does not carry any name on it. However, the IMK pamphlet was circulated on a letter head.