MIRAMSHAH, July 2: The recent merger of two major militant groups in the tribal region appears to have weakened Baitullah Mehsud’s hold over jihadi groups and have put him on the defensive.

A statement issued by Baitullah, the chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, on Wednesday accused the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of creating rift among militant groups. The Taliban chief had formed an alliance of various militant groups last year.

Observers here are of the opinion that the merger of the two groups would undermine Baitullah’s hold over the Taliban in the NWFP and Fata and the new group headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur of North Waziristan could muster more fighters and resources than the outfit headed by Baitullah.

The pro-government militant commander in South Waziristan, Maulvi Mohammad Nazir, and Hafiz Gul Bahadur belong to the Ahmadzai-Wazir tribe. They have pledged to fight Nato forces in Afghanistan. Maulvi Nazir is the alliance’s deputy chief.

Maulvi Nazir won the government’s backing after his supporters had driven Uzbek militants out of areas controlled by the Ahmadzai-Wazir tribe last year. The Uzbeks had been forced to seek protection of Baitullah’s group in the Mehsud territory.

Baitullah denied reports that he wanted to fight Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and termed the reports part of ISI’s propaganda.

“The ISI wants to create differences among Mujahideen groups. We appeal to people and the Mujahideen to foil its plans,” the Tehrik-i-Taliban chief said.

He said he or his group “will never fight Hafiz Gul, a man we regard as a true Mujahid”, adding that all militant groups should “launch a joint struggle against infidels”.

The new militant group is based in both the agencies (North and South) of Waziristan.

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