A top Pakistani tribal leader has vowed to wipe out the feared warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who has pushed Pakistan close to collapse.
30-year-old Qari Zainuddin, the leader of Taliban tribesmen opposed to Baitullah, said he had mobilised 3,000 armed followers and will attempt to wipe out the Pakistani Taliban chief and drive his al-Qaeda supporters from the country.
Baitullah, who has challenged the Pakistan Army in the lawless South Waziristan tribal area, is considered a global terrorist threat by Western intelligence agencies.
Zainuddin told The Sunday Telegraph that Baitullah had betrayed both his religion and his tribe.
"To fight our own country is wrong. Islam doesn't give permission to fight against a Muslim country. This is where we differ (with Baitullah). What we're seeing these days, these bombings in mosques, in markets, in hospitals; these are not allowed in Islam. We don't agree with them," Zainuddin was quoted as saying by the British daily.
The US has placed a USD 5 million bounty on his head, describing him as "key al-Qaeda facilitator".
His grip over the Mehsud tribe's area of South Waziristan, which lies on the border with Afghanistan, and where key al-Qaeda commanders have been given sanctuary and support, has been almost absolute for the past three years. But the challenge from Zainuddin threatens to undermine him for the first time.