Pakistan Taliban set up camps in Syria, join anti-Assad war
ISLAMABAD / PESHAWARThe Pakistani Taliban have set up camps and sent hundreds of men to Syria to fight alongside rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, militants said on Sunday, in a strategy aimed at cementing ties with al-Qaeda’s central leadership.
Taliban commanders in Pakistan said they had decided to join the cause, saying hundreds of fighters had gone to Syria to fight alongside their “Mujahedeen friends.”
“When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters along with our Arab friends,” one senior commander told Reuters, adding that the group would soon issue videos of what he described as their victories in Syria. The announcement further complicates the picture on the ground in Syria, where rivalries have already been on the boil between the Free Syrian Army and the Islamists.
Islamists operate a smaller, more effective force which now controls most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria. Tensions erupted again on Thursday when an al-Qaeda linked militant group assassinated one of Free Syrian Army’s top commanders after a dispute in the port city of Latakia.
Request of ‘Arab friends’
Another Taliban commander in Pakistan, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision to send fighters to Syria came at the request of “Arab friends.”
“Since our Arab brothers have come here for our support, we are bound to help them in their respective countries and that is what we did in Syria,” he told Reuters. “We have established our own camps in Syria. Some of our people go and then return after spending some time fighting there.”
Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban operate mainly from Pakistan’s insurgency-plagued ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghan border - a long-standing stronghold for militants including the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies.
Taliban militants in Pakistan, who are linked to their Afghan counterparts, are mainly fighting to topple Pakistan’s government and to impose their radical version of Islam, targeting the military, security forces and civilians.