Pakistani Taliban Leaders Pledge Support to Islamic State

Six leaders of the Pakistani Taliban swore allegiance to the Islamic State as the militant group gains prominence outside of Syria and Iraq.

Five commanders of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and its spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, announced their support for Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State in an e-mailed statement. Last week, TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah declared the group’s allegiance to Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar in a statement e-mailed by Shahid.

The commanders are the first among militant groups based in Pakistan to formally support the Islamic state, which has declared a caliphate that stretches across much of northern Syria and Iraq. The U.S. has started a bombing campaign backed by European and Arab allies to halt the advance.

The announcement reflects infighting among the various militant groups who have killed more than 50,000 Pakistanis since 2001. The breakaway commanders “are looking for a more attractive franchise” than the TTP, according to Tasneem Noorani, a former secretary with Pakistan’s Interior Ministry.

“The Islamic State is a more dangerous and fearful group than the Taliban now,” Noorani said by phone from Lahore. “Their pride and honor will increase with this pledge.”

The commanders supporting the Islamic State are from the areas of Peshawar, Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber and Hangu near the Afghan border, according to the e-mailed statement.

TTP chief Fazlullah offered Oct. 4 to help Islamic State and advised them to stay united. Omar Khorasani, another militant group leader who recently split from the Pakistani Taliban, also had offered his help to mediate between the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front.

Pakistan’s army started a ground operation this year in the Taliban stronghold North Waziristan after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s negotiations with the group failed.

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