News / Middle East

Pakistan Taliban Set up Camps in Syria, Join Anti-Assad War

A Free Syrian Army fighter points his weapon as he takes up position behind sandbags in Deir al-Zor, Syria, July 13, 2013.
A Free Syrian Army fighter points his weapon as he takes up position behind sandbags in Deir al-Zor, Syria, July 13, 2013.
Reuters
The 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-Qaida's central leadership.
    
More than two years since the start of the anti-Assad rebellion, Syria has become a magnet for foreign Sunni fighters who have flocked to the Middle Eastern nation to join what they see as a holy war against Shi'ite oppressors.
    
Operating alongside militant groups such as the al Nusra Front, described by the United States as a branch of al-Qaida, they mainly come from nearby countries such as Libya and Tunisia riven by similar conflict as a result of the Arab Spring.
    
On Sunday, Taliban commanders in Pakistan said they had also 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-Qaida linked militant group assassinated one of Free Syrian Army's top commanders after a dispute in the port city of Latakia.
    
It also comes at a time when Assad's forces, with backing from Shi'ite fighters from Hezbollah and Iran, have been making gains on the Syrian battlefield.
    
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."
    
Al-Qaida Loyalties
    
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-Qaida 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.
    
But they also enjoy close ties with al-Qaida and other jihahist groups who have, in turn, deployed their own fighters to Pakistan's volatile tribal region on the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.
    
In the latest sign of this trend, at least two suspected foreign militants were killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan, local security officials said.
    
Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Pakistani author and expert on the Taliban, said sending Taliban fighters to Syria was likely to be appreciated as an act of loyalty towards their al-Qaida allies.
    
"The Pakistani Taliban have remained a sort surrogate of al-Qaida. We've got all these foreigners up there in FATA who are being looked after or trained by the Pakistani Taliban," said Rashid, who is based in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
    
"They are acting like global jihadists, precisely with the agenda that al-Qaida has got. This is a way, I suppose, to cement relationships with the Syrian militant groups and to enlarge their sphere of influence."

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid