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Militant faction announces break from Pakistani Taliban

Armed ConflictsTalibanPakistan
Faction splits with the Pakistani Taliban, complicating government's attempt at peace talks
Breakaway faction criticizes Pakistani Taliban, saying it kills civilians and extorts money

After several months of internecine fighting, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban broke from the organization on Wednesday, potentially complicating efforts by the Pakistani government to negotiate peace with militants in the country’s tribal regions.

A spokesman for the faction, based in South Waziristan and led by Said Khan Sajna, lashed out at the parent organization, formally known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP. He accused it of extorting money and killing civilians with its bombing campaign.

“The present Taliban leadership is carrying out bomb attacks on public places ... and also money is being extorted from madrasas [religious schools] and other institutions, which is not acceptable,” said Azam Tariq, the spokesman. “The leadership has given up on the policy of Baitullah Mehsud, founder of the militant outfit in Pakistan, and therefore we are no more part of the TTP.”

Mehsud formed the Pakistani Taliban as a coalition of militant groups in 2007. He was killed by a suspected U.S. drone strike two years later.

The current conflict between militant factions within the movement led by Sajna and Sheher Yar began after another suspected drone strike late last year killed Mehsud’s successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, and Mullah Fazlullah was chosen the umbrella group’s new leader.

The factions have been fighting in the North and South Waziristan tribal regions for the last two months, with more than 80 people killed in the clashes, according to Pakistani officials.

The Pakistani Taliban, though related, is independent of the Taliban movement battling U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government says the home-grown militants have killed more than 50,000 civilians and 5,000 security personnel.

The split comes as the government has been weighing whether and how to revive peace talks with an militant coalition that is becoming increasingly fractious. Officials are also considering taking military action against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan.

Analysts said the fresh infighting could further weaken a movement already reduced by internal differences. Mahmood Shah, a security consultant and retired army brigadier, suggested that the government should exploit the situation to attack all militant factions.

“There is no good or bad Taliban,” he said. “The government should eliminate everyone.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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