By Zia Ur Rehman

October 25, 2013

A large number of Taliban militants have been killed in a recent turf war between two of their factions in the suburbs of Karachi.

Infighting between the factions of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman began when fighters loyal to Waliur Rehman killed Sher Khan, an operational commander appointed by Hakimullah Mehsud, in the Manghopir area of Karachi on August 16.

More than 10 of Hakimullah’s key men have been killed in the city since then, a Mehsud tribal elder said. Amongst them are Soor Baba, Warghoom Kay, Spin Baba and Misray, from Sohrab Goth.  The most recent of these killings took place on September 27, when local commander Mir Hatim Mehsud died in a clash in the Gulshen-e-Buner area of Landhi.

The Waliur Rehman group has expelled the Hakimullah Mehsud faction from Landhi, Sohrab Goth, Ittehad Town, and Manghopir, amongst other areas of Karachi, according to an intelligence officer monitoring TTP activities in the city.

“The fighting between the two factions is in fact part of a larger turf war,” he said. “They had developed serious differences over money they extort from the people of Karachi.”

A source associated with the Waliur Rehman faction, who identified himself as Haji, said his men were the real heirs of Baitullah Mehsud’s TTP in Karachi. He said his group consists solely of members of the Mehsud tribe, while Hakimullah’s fighters included Swati, Mohmand, Punjabi and Mohajir men.

Taliban fighters from Swat and Mohmand went underground during the military operations that began in 2009, and moved to Karachi. Key Mehsud militants from North and South Waziristan also moved to Karachi to escape relentless US drone attacks on key Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in their area. In their new homes in the Pashtun neighborhoods of Karachi, they began to form groups based on where they had come from.

The three key factions of the TTP active in Karachi are from South Waziristan, Swat and Mohmand. Their networks are especially strong in Ittehad Town, Manghopir, Kunwari Colony, Pashtunabad, Pipri, Gulshen-e-Buner, SITE Town and some settlements in Sohrab Goth.

Mehsud militants of the TTP’s South Wazisitan faction, considered more powerful and fierce than others, are further divided into two organizational groups – one loyal to TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, and the other reporting to TTP South Waziristan chief Waliur Rehman, who was killed in a drone strike in Miranshah town of North Waziristan on May 29. The two groups do share the same broad agenda.

Hakimullah had appointed Qari Yar Muhammad the chief of his faction in Karachi, and the recently killed Sher Khan as the operational commander in the city. Waliur Rehman had appointed Khan Zaman Mehsud the commander of his group in Karachi.

Waliur Rehman’s successor Khan Saeed, also known as Sajna, strengthened the group in the port city after he won the support of all the Mehsud tribal elders of South Waziristan, a source said. He oversees the affairs of the Taliban in Karachi directly from Miranshah.

The Mohmand chapter of TTP has also strengthened its network in Karachi, collecting protection money from settlers belonging to Mohmand Agency. TTP Mohmand chief Abdul Wali, popularly known as Omar Khalid, and his spokesman Ikramullah Mohmand organized their network in the city to raise more funds.

In first week of October, law enforcement agencies claimed they had killed four Mohmand chapter leaders – Dr Maqbool, Abdul Rehman alias Lamboo, Kifayat, and Muhammad Sami – in two separate shootouts. Omar Khalid said in a press statement that the men were picked up from Quetta Town near Sohrab Goth and killed in fake encounter.

Another Taliban faction strong in Karachi belongs to militants from Swat loyal to TTP Malakand chief Mullah Fazlullah. Not much is known about its local leaders, but sources say it is being led by Ibn-e-Aqeel alias Khog, and Sher Muhammad alias Yaseen. Swati militants initially killed dozens of anti-Taliban elders and political leaders of Swat who were travelling to or living in Karachi. Then they began killing local ANP leaders and collecting protection money from the residents of areas in which they have influence.