PESHAWAR: Footprints of the militant group known as Islamic State have now also started appearing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s town of Bannu, days after similar reports of the extremist group’s presence were received from other parts of the country.
Wall-chalking welcoming IS – which is also known by the names of Daish and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – have now appeared in various parts of Bannu city including its cantonment area.
Bannu borders North Waziristan tribal agency, known to be the Pakistani Taliban nerve-centre where the Pakistani military is carrying out Operation Zarb-i-Azb to flush them out.
“We welcome the head of Syrian Daish Group Abu Bakkar Al Bagdadi and pay him tributes,” says the graffiti in Urdu language in various parts of Bannu district.
The message from little-known group ‘Awami Baghi Group Bannu Waziristan’ appears to endorse a reported threat alert issued earlier by the Balochistan Home Department that the group has recruited more than 10,000 fighters from Kurram tribal agency and Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.
Wall chalking was reported to be seen on City Road, Cantt Road, Dera Ismail Khan road and Miran Shah road in Bannu.
Earlier, pamphlets believed to be from IS were also distributed in various parts of Peshawar and the Afghan refugee camp but were later seized.
Ex-Guantanamo detainee made chief of Islamic State Khorasan belt
The Islamic State group first started making inroads into Pakistan and Afghanistan in September this year as former Guantanamo detainee, Abdul Raheem Muslim Dost, was made the chief of its ‘Khorasan’ (the old name for Afghan, Pakistani, Irani and Central Asian territories) chapter, and started gearing up to muster the support of former jihadists.
IS propaganda booklets were reportedly distributed in parts of the Afghan-Pakistan tribal belt and in some Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar.
The black and white pamphlet-like magazine carried a message urging support for IS saying the Caliphate declared in parts of Iraq and Syria will expand to Khorasan, comprising Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.
Sources claim the booklet was distributed by Muslim Dost himself.
The 12-page booklet titled “Fateh” (meaning ‘victory’ in Pashto and Dari languages) was reportedly distributed in Afghan refugee camps, in Board Bazaar and Kharkhano Market Peshawar, as well as some parts of Afghanistan including Herat province.
A former Guantanamo prison detainee and key Afghan Taliban commander operating mostly in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and other militant commanders had previously announced their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS ‘Caliph’.
A senior Afghan Mujahideen commander who wished not to be named confirmed that Muslim Dost has been appointed the chief of Khorasan belt chapter of IS, and that he has kicked off a campaign to muster support of jihadist fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Hizb-i-Islami, a conservative militant and political group in Afghanistan, confirmed through its spokesperson Haroon Zargon that they also had reports of the propaganda booklet distributed in the Pak-Afghan border areas and Afghan localities in Peshawar.
He denied that the Gulbadin Hikmatyar-led group has pledged allegiance to IS.
Six top militant commanders of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including its former spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, have previously announced allegiance to IS. The TTP axed Shahid as its spokesman following the allegiance statement.
|KP Home Secretary Syed Akthar Ali Shah
Others TTP commanders include Orakzai agency chief Hafiz Saeed, Kurram Agency chief Daulat Khan, Khyber Agency chief Fateh Gul Zaman, Peshawar chief Mufti Hassan, and Khalid Mansoor, the chief of TTP in Hangu.
Spokesman for the TTP splinter group Jamaatul Ahrar, Ehsanullah Ehsan, has also said that they support IS but are yet to announce formal allegiance.
Responding to the reports, KP Home Secretary Syed Akthar Ali Shah said that they were probing the reports of the distribution of the booklet but he said that he doubted its authenticity and was so far unable to comment with surety on its authenticity.