DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Pakistan's Taliban movement, regarded as one of the world's most dangerous militant groups, said on Thursday it backed Ayman al-Zawahri as al Qaeda's new leader and vowed to carry out attacks against Western targets.
A militant website said Zawahri has taken command of al Qaeda, after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a secret US raid in Pakistan last month.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan described Zawahri as an “capable person” and said the former Egyptian doctor would inspire the group to take on the West.
“We have been carrying out our activities which, inshallah (God willing), will gather more momentum. We will get revenge for the oppression by the West,” he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The Pakistani Taliban, which has close links with al Qaeda and other anti-Western militant organisations, has been blamed for many of the suicide bombings across Pakistan, a US ally seen as critical to American efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.
It has bigger ambitions but has not proven capable of carrying out sophisticated attacks in the West. It claimed responsibility for a botched bombing in New York's Times Square.
Last year, the United States added the Tehrik-i-Taliban (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) to its list of foreign terrorist organisations.
US prosecutors charged TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud over a plot that killed seven CIA employees at a US base in Afghanistan in 2009.
Zawahri's relationship with groups like the TTP could determine whether the man regarded as the operational brains behind al Qaeda can strengthen an organisation that has lost steam since the Sept. 11 attacks a decade ago.
Omar Khalid Khorasani, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander, recently said in response to questions posed by Reuters that Zawahri was the group's “chief and supreme leader”.
Zawahri has expressed contempt for the US-backed Pakistani government. In recordings posted on the Internet he has urged Pakistanis to revolt against their government and army. Like other militants, he sees Pakistan as a US puppet.
In an audio recording, released in September last year, he accused the Pakistani government of responding too slowly to floods that devastated the country.
“The primary concern of the ruling class in the government and army of Pakistan is filling their domestic and foreign bank accounts with dollars, and as far as they are concerned, Pakistan and its people can go to hell,” he said.
Zawahri has tried to settle scores with the Egyptian government on Pakistani soil. He was seen as the mastermind of the suicide bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in 1995 that killed 16 people.