ISLAMABAD: (The News) In the backdrop of recent media reports that the chief of the Islamic State (Daesh) Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi was either dead or seriously wounded in a US air strike on the Syrian border, Mullah Fazlullah-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has rejected Baghdadi’s self-professed caliphate in Iraq and Syria and praised the fugitive ameer of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and his successor – al-Qaeda chief Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri.
The TTP has rejected Baghdadi’s self-professed caliphate in a statement released by the Taliban’s official propaganda wing, Umar Media following Western media reports that Baghdadi had been seriously injured in an air strike by the US-led coalition in the Baaj district province of Nineveh, near the Syrian border. The TTP’s action is being described as a counter attack as Baghdadi had first censured Mullah Omar a few weeks ago before being wounded.
The TTP publication, which is written by Abu Usman Salarzai and produced by The Long Wear Journal, is 60 pages long and is aimed at exposing the errors in Baghdadi’s claim to be the new caliph of the Muslims. The TTP statement is the latest twist in the ongoing tussle between al-Qaeda in South Asia (AQIS) and the Islamic State whose continuous rise in Pakistan and Afghanistan [at a time when the Afghan Taliban are trying to stage a comeback in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the US withdrawal from their country] has intensified the feud between the two militant groups.
The tug of war to clinch the so-called title of the ameerul momineen or the leader of the faithful was actually begun by Baghdadi in June 2014 when he had appointed himself as the Caliph of the Islamic State, a few months after he was expelled by Zawahiri as the chief of the Iraqi chapter of al-Qaeda, for disobeying him and refusing to stop the killing of innocent civilians. Baghdadi further insisted that pledging allegiance to his caliphate was a religious obligation on all the Muslims across the globe. His announcement had created ripples in Pakistani and Afghan Taliban circles which viewed it as an attempt to clinch the position of the ameerul momineen from Mullah Omar, the fugitive ameer of the Afghan Taliban. Dr Zawahiri had subsequently thrown his weight behind the ameer of the Afghan Taliban by renewing al-Qaeda’s oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar and recognizing him as the ameer, while reminding that Osama bin Laden too had pledged allegiance to Omar.
Baghdadi’s statement against Mullah Omar came amid growing concern about the rapid rise of the Daesh in Pakistan and Afghanistan after the emergence of a videotape in January 2015 in which a group of former Pakistani Taliban commanders had pledged their support for the Islamic State in the Khorasan region. In yet another video posted online, Daesh spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani had accepted the allegiance and subsequently appointed a former TTP commander from FATA, Hafiz Saeed Khan, as the ameer of the Khorasan chapter of the Islamic State. The selection of a high-profile Pakistani Taliban commander as the ameer of the Daesh in the Pakistan-Afghan region had set alarm bells ringing for the Mullah Omar-led Taliban, although Hafiz Saeed Khan was killed in a bomb explosion in the Toor Dara area of Tirah Valley on April 15, 2015.
While the Taliban led by Mullah Mohammad Omar prefer using hide and seek tactics in the Taliban’s ongoing battle against the US-backed Afghan Army to retrieve the “lost” Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Baghdadi led militants are openly fighting the US-backed forces in the Middle East, amid American drone attacks. Although Daesh has its heartland in Iraq and Syria, there are clear signs that the internationalist terrorist group is making inroads in Pakistan and Afghanistan to counter the Afghan Taliban as well as al-Qaeda.
It may be recalled that the Pakistani law enforcement agencies had recovered pamphlets of the Islamic State from the Safoora crime scene in Karachi where 45 Ismailis were shot dead in a bus on May 13, 2015. There are growing fears that the rapid rise of the Daesh in Pakistan [keeping in view its rising terrorist activities] and the consequent attempts by al-Qaeda-linked TTP to counter this trend through equally violent means, could spiral an already erratic situation.