DERA KHAN: The Pakistani Taliban on Monday denied reports that it had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement fighting in Syria and Iraq, saying that its statement to the media had been misinterpreted.
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahid Shahidullah said that a statement on Saturday had been intended as an expression of support for all Islamist militants fighting in Syria and Iraq and struggling against Western interests.
“Some media did not publish our statement correctly,” Shahidullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. “We are not supporting any specific group in Syria or Iraq; all groups there are noble and they are our brothers.”
On Saturday, Shahidullah said the Taliban would offer “every possible support” to Islamic State, a statement which several media outlets, including Reuters, reported as a declaration of allegiance to the group.
Islamic State has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq and earned notoriety for its brutality, including beheadings and crucifixions.
An alliance between the Taliban and Islamic State would have represented a significant expansion of Islamic State's reach and a further challenge to Western powers already struggling to contain Islamic State in the Middle East.
But on Monday, Shahidullah said the Pakistani Taliban continued to align itself with Mullah Omar, the elusive one-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban.
“Mullah Omar is our head and we are following him,” he said.
Omar is close to some of al Qaeda's most senior leaders.
Analysts say that Islamic State and al Qaeda, which masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, are in direct competition for fighters and funds.
“People trying to talk to Syria (Islamic Front) instead of Mullah Omar are not going to find much sympathy in the Taliban community,” said Saifullah Mahsud of the Fata Research Centre, an Islamabad-based think-tank with extensive Taliban contacts.