A Taliban leader, a rival of militant group’s chief Baitullah Mehsud, has been shot dead, reportedly by one of his own guards. The leader criticized the group’s Pakistani head of command over attacks that killed two civilians.
In the backdrop of Pakistan army’s offensive in Swat valley and South Waziristan, the shooting of Qari Zainuddin is being considered as a pointer to deepening of divisions within the Taliban.
Zainuddin, shot in the town of Dera Ismail Khan in the southern tip of the North West Frontier Province, was pronounced dead with multiple gunshots wounds to the head and chest when taken to the local hospital, said a doctor.
According to reports, Zainuddin had accused Baitullah Mehsud of going against the tenets of Islam for carrying out attacks on religious scholars.
He said he would take his men and go after Baitullah Mehsud, reports said.
Baz Mohammad, one of Zainuddin’s aides, who was also wounded in the attack, said that the guard stormed into a room at the compound immediately following morning prayers and opened fire. Mohammad accused Mehsud of organising the attack.
“It was definitely Baitullah’s man who infiltrated our ranks, and he has done his job,” Mohammad said.
The incidence is a message to the government to launch a comprehensive offensive to eliminate Mehsud, said a former Pakistani security official, Mahmood Shah.
“You simply can’t eliminate him through local efforts; instead, you need a major force,” Shah said.
The military has been attacking fighters loyal to Mehsud, Pakistan’s Taliban leader, in the South Waziristan region that borders Afghanistan.
On Monday, Taliban fighters used rockets, mortars and other weapons to attack Pakistani military positions in the northwest, but the military responded swiftly with air raids that left at least 25 dead, officials said.