The Notorious Khorasani

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Abdul Wali, more commonly known by his alias Omar Khalid Khorasani, started his career as the commander of TTP Mohmand agency and remained part of TTP’s central Shura. After the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud in November 2013, the then commander of TTP Khalid had a fall out with the new TTP Amir Fazalulah and went on to establish his own faction of TTP, which he named Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, and kept on heading even after re-joining hands with his former amir Fazalullah.

Early life and Family Background:

Born in a small village called Kandharo in Safi subdivision of Mohmand district in 1980 (Safi tribe), Khalid briefly attended his village school and madrasah, and then for the advanced religious education, he studied at a madrasah in Karachi in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In a rare interview to TTP’s official quarterly jihadi magazine Ihya-e-Khilafat, Khalid described his family background., he said that jihadi traditions run in the family as his grandfather fought against the British during the Third Afghan War (1919-1920), whereas his father had fought against the Soviet Union in the Afghan War (1978-1989).

Harkat-ul-Mujahideen: (1980s – 1990s)

In Karachi, he joined Kashmiri jihadi organization Harkatul-Mujahideen. Although he never managed to land into Indian Kashmir insurgency, he remained part of HuM till the time he joined Afghan Taliban ranks.

Afghan Taliban:

Following the family norms and jihadist values, Khalid started his jihadi career from Afghanistan in 1996. He joined the Taliban forces of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Afghan Taliban) and got posted in Kunar province close to his home district on the Pakistani side of the border. After returning to his home district after the fall of Taliban regime in the start of 2002, Khalid started working for a magazine “Mohmand Adbi Guncha”, published and circulated in Mohmand district. Omar Khalid continued to work alongside Afghan Taliban after the resurgence of Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan after 2004. He fought US and ISAF forces at different fronts in Kunar and Nuristan.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan:

He finally restricted his terror activities to Pakistan after Islamist insurgency started to take off in Pakistan’s tribal areas, under the leadership of Abdullah Mehsud and Nek Mohammad Wazir in 2004. Khalid pledged allegiance to Baitullah Mehsud, the founder of TTP in 2006, Baitullah formerly laid the foundations of TTP in August 2007, but earlier to this he was involved in battling Pakistani security forces in North and South Waziristan districts of tribal areas. The Pakistani security forces’ operations were targeted to apprehend on-the-run Al-Qaeda high profile leaders and rank and files in tribal areas where the Al-Qaeda had found an ally in Baitullah and his predecessor tribal leaders, who were up front in providing sanctuaries to Al-Qaeda high command.

Baitullah nominated Khalid as the TTP commander for Mohmand district where he had managed to develop strong ties with Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens and Chinese Uighurs. During his rise to power in Mohmand Agency, Khorasani faced formidable enemies like Shah Khalid group. He successfully defeated Shah Khalid’s forces after a series of fierce battles in 2008. Afterwards, Khorsani became the undisputed warlord of Mohmand Agency.

TTP Leadership crisis:

After the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud in a drone strike in South Waziristan in 2013, a power struggle rose in the ranks of TTP, on who would become the next Amir, Omar Khalid Khurasani, Khalid Sajna, and Maulvi Fazalullah were the potential contenders. Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, the former spokesman of TTP, after his surrender told to security forces that the Amir of TTP was decided through a “lucky draw”.

Khorasani accused Fazalullah and his allied commanders for deviating from the TTP ideology. Fazalullah being in Afghanistan and missed Shura council’s meetings slammed the decision of Khurasani and called him a traitor and deviator.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar:

Khorasani established Jamaat ul Ahrar after developing differences with TTP Amir Fazalullah in September 2014. Key TTP commanders who joined hands with Jamaat ul Ahrar and became part of its Shura were Qari Shakeel Haqqani from Charsadda, Maulana Yasin from Swat, Mufti Mishbahfrom Peshawar districts of Khyber- province, and Qari Ismail from Khyber district, Maulana Abdullah from Bajaur district, Maulana Haider and Mansoor Nazim from Orakzai districts of Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Beliefs:

Omar Khalid Khorasani was known to have hardcore Islamist beliefs. Khorasani always opposed peace talks with the government. The group staunchly believed in creating an Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan governed by Sharia laws. Khorasani repeatedly expressed his contempt for the Pakistani constitution and vowed to replace it with Sharia laws. Khorasani also declared Al-Qaeda’s former Amir his hero. While discussing his ideological beliefs, he would describe that he initially believed that Pakistan would become part of the Islamic Caliphate movement that started from Afghanistan under the Taliban, but after the fall of Taliban regime, he focused on implementation of Sharia laws in Pakistan through terror activities, specifically suicide attacks.

Red Mosque:

Khorasani was also on front among the terrorist circles of Pakistan to criticise the Lal Masjid operation (Red Mosque military operation in 2007), as known as operation Silence by Special Forces of Pakistan Army after a long siege and was the first terrorist commander who vowed to take revenge. In summer of 2007 after seizing the shrine of a famous anti-colonialist fighter in the village of Ghaziabad, he renamed it Laal Masjid.

Alliance With NDS and R&AW:

Former spokesman of Jamaat ul Ahrar and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Ehsanullah Ehsan said the TTP and Jamaatul Ahrar commanders had ties with Afghanistan’s Intelligence Agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS)and Research Analysis Wing (RAW), which supported them, gave money and identified targets for their attacks in Pakistan. Ehsan revealed that Taliban commanders took money for every attack and then went to safe havens in Afghanistan and left fighters on their own to fight against the Pakistan Army. “When Taliban took money from NDS and Taliban, I told Omar Khorasani that what we were doing was helping Kuffar (non-believers) by carrying out attacks in our country with their money. We are serving them.”. According to Ehsan, Khorasani replied, “Even if Israel will help me for terrorism in Pakistan, I will take help from it.”

“Then I understood that they (TTP commanders) were working with a specific agenda for their own personal motives. They formed committees to keep in touch with NDS and RAW. RAW arranged identity cards for them so that they could move freely in Afghanistan. Without that, it was difficult for them to move around in Afghanistan because of the security situation. They were provided safe passage by NDS for entry into Pakistan.”

Elimination:

Omar Khalid Khorasani sustained serious injuries in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s Paktia province on 17th October 2017 and succumbed to his injuries on 18th October 2017. It will prove to be a major loss in the ranks of TTP, will have effects on their operational capabilities. Perhaps this drone strike demonstrates to be a start of good coordination between America and Pakistan because Khorasani was wanted by Pakistan security agencies. An important Taliban commander has revealed that one of JuA’s senior commanders, Asad Afridi, has already been appointed new JuA chief.

Terror Attacks:

  • November 2014, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the Wagha border attack in a telephone call to dawn from Afghanistan.
  • November 2014, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for bombings that killed at least six people in Mohmand agency. The bombs targeted volunteers in Chinari village of Safi Tehsil.
  • 21 November 2014, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for a grenade attack on the membership camp of MQM in Orangi Town area of Karachi. Three members of the Sindh Assembly and 50 workers were injured.
  • 15 March 2015, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for two bombings at a church at Youhanabad town of Lahore. At least 15 people were killed and seventy were wounded in the attacks.
  • 7 March 2016, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that left 11 dead and 15 wounded after a man blew himself up outside a district court in the town of Shabqadar in the Charsadda district.
  • 27 March 2016, a spokesman for Taliban splinter group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar says: ‘We proudly take responsibility for the suicide attack in a park in Lahore.
  • On 16 September 2016, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed the responsibility of suicide attack in a local mosque of Tehsil Amabar in Mohmand Agency, the attack killed at least 28 people and left 31 injured.
  • On 13 February 2017, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed their involvement in a suicide attack targeting senior police officials at a protest on Lahore’s mall road. The attack left 13 people dead and injured 31 others. The dead include 6 police officials, including DIG City Traffic Police Lahore Ahmad Mobin Zaidi and Acting DIG (Operations) Zahid Gondal. The terrorist outfit sent a text message to claim their responsibility and later released a video message to warn of future attacks.
  • On 31 March 2017, Jamaat-ul-Ahraar claimed responsibility for an attack in Parachinar that killed 24 and injured 68 people.

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