Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman surrenders: military

VOLUNTARY?There has been media speculation that Sajjid Mohmand had been seeking protection due to fears of reprisal attacks by former peers

NY Times News Service, ISLAMABAD

The Pakistani military on Monday said that a high-profile militant leader had surrendered, calling it a significant victory in efforts against the remnants of the Pakistani Taliban.

The militant, Sajjid Mohmand, is more widely known by his pseudonym, Ehsanullah Ehsan, and was the main spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban.

He had gained prominence through his ambitious media campaigns, savvy use of social media networks, and frequent phone calls and text messages to local journalists and news media outlets to claim responsibility for terrorist attacks.

“He is in our custody,” Pakistani military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said at a news conference in Rawalpindi.

However, he offered no details about the circumstances in which Mohmand surrendered to the Pakistani security forces.

Mohmand was one of the most recognizable faces of the Pakistani Taliban, officially known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, until 2013. That year, he lost the trust of the top Taliban leadership after he issued a statement critical of the Afghan Taliban, and he was accused of “creating mistrust” between the two groups.

After he was fired, Mohmand joined a hard-line splinter Taliban group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which has claimed most of the terrorist attacks in Pakistan in recent years. He was said to have been working with the group till last month.

The rise of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar signified a profound splintering of the Pakistani Taliban amid internal power struggles and ideological differences, most visibly over the start of peace talks between the main group and the Pakistani government a few years ago.

Mohmand’s voice and announcements laid claim to a long list of terrorist violence, including the attack on Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani girl who would become a Nobel peace laureate for her education advocacy work; the shooting of Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist and talk-show host; and the killing of 11 mountain climbers in northern Pakistan in 2013. Most recently, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed an attack in Lahore this year.

There has been some media speculation in Pakistan that Mohmand had been seeking the military’s protection from reprisal attacks by his former peers. However, there was no official confirmation on that point, and military officials would not comment further on his surrender.

Two members of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, insisted that it was a case of voluntary surrender after the group had suffered huge losses to Pakistani military offensives.

One of the militants said Mohmand’s family and some tribal elders had helped arrange a deal with the military.

“His surrender is very significant as it gives an impression that Ahrar is suffering from internal differences and division,” Mir said. “It will have a demoralizing effect on other militants.”

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