Pakistani Taliban face division as senior rebel leaders launch splinter group

Pakistani Taliban face division as senior rebel leaders launch splinter group

ISLAMABAD, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Senior Pakistani Taliban have launched a splinter group over serious differences in the ranks of the banned outfit, a senior leader of the new faction said Tuesday.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Jamaatul Ahrar is the second group launched months after a powerful faction of the militants from the Mehsud tribe parted ways with the TTP.

"We have formed the new group," former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who has also joined the new group, told Pakistani media over phone from an undisclosed location.

Qasim Khorasani, a founder member of the TTP, has been nominated as chief of the new faction, Ehsan said. He claimed that the head of the TTP's powerful "Shura" or council, Qari Shakil Ahmad, also joined the new outfit. Shakil led the TTP team in the peace talks with the government, which faced deadlock over the group's refusal to stop attacks.

The army then launched major offensive against the Taliban in North Waziristan tribal region, their biggest sanctuary.

Another senior leader, Omar Khalid Khorasani, the incumbent chief of the TTP Mohmand tribal region, is also part of the breakaway faction.

"There was infighting. There had been no coordination and organization. Lack of trust was another serious problem that forced us to launch our own group," Ehsan said. He also claimed support from the TTP leaders in Mohmand, Orakzai and Bajaur tribal areas and some other regions.

"Our group will work on the pattern of Afghanistan's Islamic Emirate," a reference to the Afghan Taliban, Ehsan said. Afghan Taliban deny any relation with the TTP, however, political observers said they have strong connections on both sides of the borders.

He said the new group will not take all those who were responsible for what he called weaknesses in the ranks of the TTP.

The TTP faced division at a time when the group is in disarray due to the military offensive in North Waziristan launched in June. Most of the TTP leaders have fled the region and are believed to have moved across the border into Afghanistan or other tribal regions.

The military has said the operation has killed nearly 700 local and foreign Taliban militants.