PESHAWAR: A Pakistani Taliban warlord who claims to control hundreds of foot soldiers said Monday he had broken with the militia and would form his own anti-American group along the Afghan border.
Fazal Saeed described himself as the leader of Pakistan's umbrella Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) faction in the tribal district of Kurram, but said he had run out of patience with the network for killing civilians.
TTP has claimed a series of high-profile attacks in the nearly two months since US troops killed Osama bin Laden.
Hinting at a possible a split in Pakistan's deadliest militant outfit, blamed for more than 4,500 deaths in attacks since July 2007, Saeed said he had decided to form a new organisation — Tehreek-i-Taliban Islami.
“I repeatedly told the leadership council of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan that they should stop suicide attacks against mosques, markets and other civilian targets,” Saeed told AFP by telephone.
“Islam does not allow killings of innocent civilians in suicide attacks,” he said, likening what TTP does in Pakistan to “what US troops are doing in Afghanistan” and vowing to continue the fight alone against the Americans.
“I have therefore decided to quit TTP,” Saeed said, claiming to have defected along with “hundreds of supporters.” A 10-member consultative council will meet within days to formulate the group's programme, he told AFP.
Saeed said he was TTP leader in Kurram, one of seven districts in Pakistan's tribal belt known as havens of Taliban and al Qaeda linked groups fighting US and Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan.
He denied that his defection had anything to do with the government, or Pakistani intelligence and security agencies.
“I have no links with them,” Saeed said, adding that he considered America as “our main enemy” and describing attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan as “justified.”
He said his goal was to enforce sharia law and Islamic rule in Afghanistan and Pakistan, claiming that he had supporters all over Pakistan.
Kurram is unique in that its upper part has a Shia Muslim majority while its lower reaches are dominated by Sunni Muslims. There have been outbreaks of sectarian violence between the two communities.
Shia travellers to Peshawar and adjoining cities have often been attacked by groups of Sunni militants backed by the Taliban.