ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban have set up camps and sent hundreds of men to Syria to fight alongside rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, militants said on Sunday, in a strategy aimed at cementing ties with al Qaeda's central leadership.

More than two years since the start of the anti-Assad rebellion, Syria has become a magnet for foreign Sunni fighters who have flocked to the Middle Eastern nation to join what they see as a holy war against Shia oppressors.

Operating alongside militant groups such as the al Nusra Front, described by the United States as a branch of al Qaeda, they mainly come from nearby countries such as Libya and Tunisia driven by similar conflict as a result of the Arab Spring.

On Sunday, Taliban commanders in Pakistan said they had also decided to join the cause, saying hundreds of fighters had gone to Syria to fight alongside their “Mujahedeen friends”.

“When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters along with our Arab friends,” one senior commander told Reuters, adding that the group would soon issue videos of what he described as their victories in Syria.

The announcement further complicates the picture on the ground in Syria, where rivalries have already been on the boil between the Free Syrian Army and the Islamists.

Islamists operate a smaller, more effective force which now controls most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria.

Tensions erupted again on Thursday when an al-Qaeda linked militant group assassinated one of Free Syrian Army's top commanders after a dispute in the port city of Latakia.

It also comes at a time when Assad's forces, with backing from Shia fighters from Hezbollah and Iran, have been making gains on the Syrian battlefield.

Another Taliban commander in Pakistan, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision to send fighters to Syria came at the request of “Arab friends”.

“Since our Arab brothers have come here for our support, we are bound to help them in their respective countries and that is what we did in Syria,” he told Reuters.

“We have established our own camps in Syria. Some of our people go and then return after spending some time fighting there.”

AL QAEDA LOYALTIES

Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban operate mainly from Pakistan's insurgency-plagued ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghan border - a long-standing stronghold for militants including the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.

Taliban militants in Pakistan, who are linked to their Afghan counterparts, are mainly fighting to topple Pakistan's government and to impose their radical version of Islam, targeting the military, security forces and civilians.

But they also enjoy close ties with al Qaeda and other jihahist groups who have, in turn, deployed their own fighters to Pakistan's volatile tribal region on the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.

In the latest sign of this trend, at least two suspected foreign militants were killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan, local security officials said.

Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Pakistani author and expert on the Taliban, said sending Taliban fighters to Syria was likely to be appreciated as an act of loyalty towards their al Qaeda allies.

“The Pakistani Taliban have remained a sort surrogate of al Qaeda. We've got all these foreigners up there in FATA who are being looked after or trained by the Pakistani Taliban,” said Rashid, who is based in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

“They are acting like global jihadists, precisely with the agenda that al Qaeda has got. This is a way, I suppose, to cement relationships with the Syrian militant groups ... and to enlarge their sphere of influence.”


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Comments (32)

AFAQ
July 14, 2013 4:23 pm

How they exit and enter the country no one check on this.

Mir
July 14, 2013 4:30 pm

How these Pakistani Taliban travel to Syria, Do they have Pakistani Passports? How they got visa? or how they leave Pakistan without documents? Please stop these unverified reports to move public opinion.

Syed
July 14, 2013 4:58 pm

Pakistan should do something about these terrorists. They should send a few hunred soldiers to Syria to help their soldiers to kill these thugs. It is a shame that Pakistan is hated around the world because of these terrorist. Pakistan seems to be happy with it all.

Israr
July 14, 2013 5:20 pm

@Mir: May b they have their our aeroplanes lolz :OR the way CIA agents enter Pak & settled their network very effectively

azhar
July 14, 2013 5:20 pm

@AFAQ: Bahi Jan, they Taliban !!!

syed
July 14, 2013 5:21 pm

another baseless news to humiliate Pakistan. Taliban said something and our media believes them without hesitation. Bravo!

Omar Irfan Kayani
July 14, 2013 5:29 pm

What do you think was the reason for heavy mandate of PML-N?.To look the other way through their Interior Minister when these guys set up a global operation courtesy of CIA,and if you remember Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar were openly passing verdicts that TTP was an innocent lot only fighting USA in Afghanistan,just before gaining power.

Khawar T khyam
July 14, 2013 5:42 pm

USA and its cronies are again exploiting these Taliban. I think it is quite clear who is paying these terrorists. One day these terrorist are going to pull their guns against their masters.

pakiboy
July 14, 2013 5:58 pm

a big WTH thing is .. how these hundreds of fighters reached syria ? ..

edwardian
July 14, 2013 6:04 pm

So for a while the The US and its allies have a common goal with the Taliban in their activities in Syria against Asad's regime.

rashid
July 14, 2013 6:23 pm

How many girls schools are there in Syria?

Azhar Hussain
July 14, 2013 6:37 pm

The Taliban who released this news and the reporter who reported this news think Syrian border touches our western border. For haven sake think before printing it.

Jawad Hassan
July 14, 2013 6:38 pm

The Government of Pakistan should condemn this announcement by TTP in the strongest possible terms and take action to prevent Pakistani soil to be used by fanatic killers to wrought death and destruction on the people of Syria. TTP is a violent, criminal organization and should be dealt with as the enemy of Pakistan which it openly claims to be. Wake up Pakistanis and stop the snakes before it is too late to save the country!

Salim Akbani
July 14, 2013 6:47 pm

And the poison spreads.

AB Uzair
July 14, 2013 7:30 pm

Libya and Tunisia are Syria's neighbors? Wow. Never knew that. Look up a map before submitting stories.

Fishy
July 14, 2013 7:39 pm

Something fishy. You mean these guys traveled more than 2000 miles across multiple countries, most of them controlled by US or pro-US forces? If they traveled by air, then it is beyond fishy. It is laughable. 'Hundreds' of Pakistanis traveled to Damascus in these times without anyone noticing, until some one sent an 'announcement'? This is hilarious.

mell
July 14, 2013 7:52 pm

To move hundred men from Tribal area to Syria with fighting gear and weapons, provide them shelter and food. One has to ask; who is financing all this? and the answer lies behind, whoever has financed Sunni vs Shia conflicts for last thirty some years.

Sarwat Hasan
July 14, 2013 8:02 pm

Spreading terrorism at home not enough. They defame Pakistan and Islam. How come Pakistan government allow them to travel. Pakistan has already earned enough name because of their actions. Pakistan and its reputation is more important than any other cause. Our army should step in and control their movement. As it is army's responsibility for safeguarding Pakistan in all respects.

tojo
July 14, 2013 8:49 pm

@syed: Right again. Our media plays into the hands of the "enemies" of Pakistan. Question is why are not the spokesmen of Taliban & al-Qaida arrested when they appear on TV, Radio or in person to deliver Taliban's propaganda? In modern world everything can be traced to its origin, right?

R Farooq
July 14, 2013 9:10 pm

Its now out in the open that Taliban are a proxy of USA/ Arab allies and being used to further their agenda. They're destabilizing Pakistan and any Muslim country stand against imperialistic powers. Our shameful leaders failure to protect Pakistan and its people is evident from General Pasha's statement that we sell ourselves for visas to foreign countries. Its time for Egyptian style revolution: people start protest to rid country off foreign puppets and have people incharge who love and care for the country.

syed Rizvi
July 14, 2013 9:13 pm

Do we need more evidence? USA has been supporting them for many years now.

syed Rizvi
July 14, 2013 9:13 pm

@syed: If you think its actually humiliating USA.

sohail
July 15, 2013 12:03 am

@pakiboy: the same way arab fighters came here

sohail
July 15, 2013 12:05 am

@Khawar T khyam: already have. US was hit by these TTP in three different countries. khost (afghanistan), dir and peshawar and karachi (pakistan) and new york times square (US). the last one thankfully failed.

sohail
July 15, 2013 12:06 am

@Mir: they dont need a passport or visa to move about. in case you didnt know they do not accept the constitution. then again nobody needs a visa to cross the durand line. open border hardly any writ of state

Mirza
July 15, 2013 12:10 am

@Syed: Its like barking at the stick and not at the one who's actually holding it. You will be better off when you get the answer to that or a courage to tell it like it is.

Gulap
July 15, 2013 5:39 am

@Syed: "They should send a few hunred soldiers to Syria to help their soldiers to . . . " Only if they could do it in their own backyard.

Hussain
July 15, 2013 5:45 am

@syed: The news is not baseless. Its been going on for past two years but they have only acknowledged it now.

Hussain
July 15, 2013 5:47 am

@Mir: They travel on special Turkish airline flights. Google and you will find the truth

Mustafa
July 15, 2013 6:05 am

@pakiboy:

How did a thousand Taliban reach Libya? When you are fighting America's war transportation is not much of an issue.

Mustafa
July 15, 2013 6:07 am

@Omar Irfan Kayani:

When it comes to waging their tails for America, there is no difference between PPP and PML-N.

Krishnan
July 15, 2013 6:34 am

@Khawar T khyam: So CIA is paying TTP to attack people in Pakistan-by implication?

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