Pakistan Taliban leader vows to strike US

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Pakistan Taliban leader vows to strike US
The new leader of the Taliban in Pakistan vowed to strike back at Pakistan and the US for the increasing number of drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

On Sunday, Hakimullah Mehsud met with reporters in the country's tribal areas for the first time since winning control of the militants.

His appearance, flanked by other Taliban commanders in a show of unity, ended speculation that he was killed in a leadership battle within the militant group sparked by the August slaying of his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, in a missile strike.

Mehsud spoke to a small group of reporters as he sat on a blanket on the ground in the shade of a tree, flanked by guards carrying heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

"We were against the Americans and NATO forces right from the beginning," he said. "We don't want to fight against the Pakistan army, our aim is to remove the Americans from this region," he said.

He spoke on condition his comments not be published until the reporters left the area on Monday out of concern their use of satellite phones to file the story could lead Pakistani forces to him.

Unmanned drones have carried out more than 70 missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan over the last year in a covert program, killing several top militant commanders along with sympathisers and civilians.

The Pakistani government publicly protests the attacks but is widely believed to sanction them and provide intelligence for at least some.

Pakistan has largely beaten back a Taliban insurgency in the northwestern Swat Valley in recent months and intelligence officials say the country is preparing a major offensive against al-Qaida and Taliban in their stronghold in South Waziristan.

Mehsud said his forces were ready for such an attack.

American officials have said they are considering a strategy of intensified drone attacks combined with the deployment of special operations forces against al-Qaida and Taliban targets on the Pakistani side of the border, part of an alternative to sending more troops to Afghanistan in what is an increasingly unpopular war.

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As part of the offensive against the Taliban leadership, Mehsud's brother, Kalimullah, was killed last month.

Analysts say the group is struggling to regroup from the attacks on its leaders.
Mehsud also said his group should "bring humility to the Pakistani nation, and rid it of slavery and bring it to humanity."

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