Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

Group behind the Peshawar school attack that has claimed more than 100 lives has close ties to Al-Qaida and has pledged allegiance to the leader of the Afghan Taliban.

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An archive photo of Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan on November 1, 2013.
An archive photo of Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan on November 1, 2013.Credit: AFP

Pakistan is mired in several parallel conflicts, including the Taliban Islamist insurgency, in which at least 50,000 people have died since 2004.
The Pakistani Taliban are basically a coalition of various groups led by local strongmen in Pakistan's lawless tribal region.

Formally known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the coalition has close ties to Al-Qaida and has pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar, the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban.

Various Pakistan radicals have continued to support the Afghan Taliban movement since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion in Afghanistan. But in 2007, a local tribal strongman, Baitullah Mehsud, formed a loose coalition of 13 groups and called it the TTP.

The objective was to form an alliance against the NATO-led foreign forces in Afghanistan as well as the Pakistan Army.

"Their primary target is the Pakistani state and its military," political analyst Raza Rumi said. "It wants sharia [Islamic law] to be imposed in Pakistan."

The South Asian Terrorism Portal calls the TTP "the deadliest among all indigenous militant outfits." It has launched many daring attacks on military and civilian installations, including the Karachi airport this year.

The estimated strength of the TTP is 30,000 to 35,000 fighters, the political analyst Ali Chisti said.

The group is banned in Pakistan, and it was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 2010.

Since the beginning, the organization has kept breaking into different factions along tribal lines and leadership. Infighting has killed several of its top leaders.

Last year, then-TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike. Mullah Fazlullah took over the leadership, which split the Taliban into at least four groups.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government in Pakistan tried to initiate talks with the TTP last year, which did not succeed.

The Pakistani military started an air and ground operation in June against the TTP and its hideouts in the tribal areas.  

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