Qari Zafar’s death in US drone stike a major blow to Pakistani Taliban


LAHORE: The reported death of al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani sectarian-turned jehadi group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s acting ameer Commander Qari Zafar in the February 24 American predator strike in Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan on the Pak-Afghan border, has come as a lethal blow to both the LeJ and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan which were working in tandem ever since the formation of the TTP in December 2007 to let loose a reign of terror in almost every nook and corner of Pakistan.

Well-informed Pakistani intelligence circles say the Wednesday drone strike on a house in Peerano Killay near Miramshah killed nine suspected Punjabi Taliban, including Qari Zafar, who was working in coordination with TTP’s key militant commander Qari Hussain Mehsud, better known as Ustad-e-Fidayeen (Teacher of suicide bombers). Both Qari Zafar and Hussain Mehsud had last appeared before a small group of journalists on October 5, 2009 at an unspecified place in South Waziristan when TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, thought to have been killed during infighting, had addressed a press conference to refute media reports of his death. Speaking on the occasion, Hakeemullah said commanders like Qari Zafar had formally joined hands with the TTP and hundreds of their suicide bombers were waiting for their turn to hit targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Consequently, a series of deadly fidayeen attacks was carried out in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, including the October 10, 2009 assault on the General headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

Subsequent investigations by Pakistani authorities revealed that these stunning commando style terrorist attacks were jointly coordinated by Qari Zafar and Qari Hussain, while the latter also happens to be a first cousin of Hakeemullah Mehsud. These attacks had compelled the security agencies to admit that the TTP has bounced back with a vengeance following the August 2009 death of Baitullah Mehsud to establish the authority of Hakeemullah as the new terror king of Pakistan. Hence, the reported death of Zafar in a US missile strike has come as a huge relief for the Pakistani security establishment. Actually hailing from Karachi, he had become a member of al-Qaeda’s hardline Takfiri group and was enjoying the protection of the TTP.

Qari Zafar was arrested for questioning in connection with the March 2, 2006 car bomb attack outside the US consulate building in Karachi. The bombing killed three Pakistani citizens as well as an American diplomat David Foy, thus making the Federal Bureau of Investigations FBI to announce an award of $5 millions on his head. However, Zafar escaped from the custody of the agencies in Lahore in 2007 and was operating from South Waziristan since then. He was also believed to be the alleged mastermind of the September 2008 suicide truck bombing of the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad. His involvement in the ugly episode was established from phone numbers found on the mobile phones of some of those arrested in Punjab. Zafar’s role in the Marriott blast was not only for planning the attack but also, arranging for the procurement of massive quantity of explosives [with the help of his LeJ followers]and even the vehicles used in the attack.

As a matter of fact, most of the major terror attacks carried out in Pakistan since 9/11 have a common grandmother – the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or the Army of Jhangvi – an anti-Shia Sunni-Deobandi sectarian turned anti-US organisation which is currently the group of choice for hard-core Pakistani militants who are adamant to pursue their ambitious jehadi agenda. Launched in 1996 as a Sunni sectarian group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi today has deep-rooted links with al-Qaeda and Taliban and is considered to be the most violent terrorist organisation operating in Pakistan with the help of its lethal suicide bombers squad. And Commander Qari Zafar had been leading the LeJ as its acting ameer ever since the arrest of Muhammad Ajmal alias Akram Lahori, the Salar-e-Aala or ameer. Lahori was indicted on Feb 20, 2010 by an anti-terrorism court in Karachi in a 2002 sectarian killing case.

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