Terrorism

Blast kills another TTP leader in Afghanistan

By Ashfaq Yusufzai

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Shehryar Mehsud, a close associate of slain TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud and chief of a militant faction that is part of the umbrella TTP, was killed in a roadside bomb on February 13, 2020. See here are bystanders looking on as security force personnel inspect wreckage at the site of a roadside bomb in Nangarhar province in 2017. [Noorullah Shirzada/AFP]

PESHAWAR -- A top leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been killed in Afghanistan, the banned militant group confirmed Thursday (February 13).

Shehryar Mehsud, a close associate of slain TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud and chief of a militant faction that is part of the umbrella TTP, was killed Wednesday (February 12) by a remote-controlled bomb in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

Mehsud fled to Afghanistan in 2016, said a Pakistani intelligence official who confirmed Mehsud's death to AFP.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the killing.

Mehsud's death comes after Sheikh Khalid Haqqani, a member of the TTP's consultative council, and Qari Saifullah Peshawari, another leader, were killed in a clash with security forces in Afghanistan on January 31.

Since the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb by the Pakistani army in June 2014 in Pakistan's tribal areas, the TTP has suffered heavy losses.

"Most of [the TTP's] leaders have fled to Afghanistan. Many senior leaders have either gone into hibernation or have been killed, which is the main reason behind the dwindling incidence of terrorism," said Lt. Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood, an Islamabad-based senior security analyst.

Gone are the days when the TTP was considered a major force, as it is no longer in a position to battle security forces, he said.

"The TTP's leadership has already disappeared in Pakistan, while in Afghanistan it is on the run. The TTP is suffering many casualties, most of which go unreported... only news about the assassination of its leaders emerges," he said.

The TTP's fighters and local leaders in Afghanistan have been surrendering to the government's forces, which reflects how weak they are, he said. In Pakistan, thousands of Taliban have also surrendered prior to renouncing terrorism.

"The reported death of Shehryar Mehsud is a serious setback to the TTP, and it will further demoralise its rank-and-file and the existing leadership hierarchy," said Namair Khan, a master's student in international relations at the University of Peshawar.

"The news of his assassination -- confirmed by the TTP -- will have a lasting impact on its activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Khan said.

"This shows the continuous downfall of the TTP as it has been unable to battle security forces. The TTP's intelligence system has also not been operating over the past several months, so its members have been killed now and then," he said.

The elimination of TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah in a US strike in Afghanistan in 2018 and the killing of their other commanders from time to time have forced the group's fighters to go into hiding, said Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar-based security analyst.

"It has lost its fighting spirit and now relies on bombings and suicide attacks to spread public terror. The public is no longer on the TTP's side after learning that it is the real enemy of the people," he said.

The notion that TTP was meant to establish an Islamic government and promote Islamic values has proved to be a farce as its activities were against religious teachings, he said, adding that acts of terrorism by TTP militants have enraged residents on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

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