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Power struggle among Taliban factions could be behind Pak attacks

world Updated: Jun 11, 2014 08:22 IST
Saikat Datta
Pakistan's Karachi airport attack

The two attacks on Pakistan's Karachi airport in as many days could be a result of a power struggle among splinter groups of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Indian security analysts said on Tuesday.

"One group is trying to assert itself over the others," former Research and Analysis Wing chief Vikram Sood said, pointing to a turf war in the Pakistan Taliban.
The TTP, which grew out of Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal areas, has been splintering into factions for the past two years. As the gangs of the umbrella militant outfit started moving into Pashtun neighbourhoods of Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, everyone knew trouble was on its way.

"Clearly, the attacks are an attempt to not only hit the other factions but also to hit Pakistan economically and create an international incident that serves their cause," Sushant Sareen, a long-time Pakistan watcher at the Vivekanand International Foundation told HT.

Read: Second attack on Karachi airport ends, no casualties; attackers flee

Sood agreed: "It (the airport attack) is also an attempt to force the hand of the Pakistani government. Whether it will lead to another round of talks between the Pakistani military and the TTP remains to be seen."

Pakistan security forces have still not been able to identify which TTP faction carried out the Karachi attacks. Indian intelligence analysts, however, believe the assaults were carried out by the dominant Mehsud group that operates out of South Waziristan and is led by Mullah Fazlullah.

Read: Post Karachi attack, battered Pak looks for solutions

"The timing is interesting. The Mehsud group has been itching to project power and establish itself in areas outside of Waziristan. They dominate Karachi and have bases and sleeper cells in Punjab. We also have to remember that the splits are not ideological. These are turf wars for domination within Pakistan. They, however, draw ideological strength from the same well. None of them are liberals in any manner," Sareen said.

Other suspects, though by a long shot, are a group led by Khan Sajid Sajna and another headed by Fazl Saeed Otazai. While the Sajna-led faction broke away in 2013, the other group separated from the core outfit in 2011.

The power struggle between the factions has also turned violent in the past. In April, 35 people were killed in clashes between the Sajna and Mehsud groups.
Some analysts also feel the smaller factions have had talks with the Pakistani security establishment and are possibly being used to take on the dominant Mehsud faction. This could be a possible cause for the Mehsud group to reassert its dominance over the Pakistani Taliban.

Shahidullah Shahid, spokesperson of the Mehsud faction, has already claimed credit for both the Karachi attacks as a revenge for the killing of their leader Hakimullah Mehsud in November last year.