Islamabad, Apr 4: Al Qaeda and affiliated militant groups based in Pakistan's restive tribal belt are grooming alternative leaders and splitting into small cells to confuse counter-terror agencies and to survive in the face of sudden fatalities, a media report said today.
The groups, including the Haqqani network, have been following this pattern for some time and “unusual changes” are expected in months to come, The Express Tribune newspaper quoted intelligence officials in Islamabad and associates of the groups in South and North Waziristan Agencies as saying.
The Afghan Taliban led by Maulana Sirajuddin Haqqani and his father Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, supposedly the strongest of Al Qaeda's partners, might be promoting a new leader to undertake the group's operational and organisational activities, the report said.
Badaruddin, one of the sons of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, will be introduced to the world as the network's main operative, leading the group and spearheading its operations across Pakistan-Afghanistan border, it said. “He is up and coming...very soon he will be a household name in the world of terror,” said an unnamed official.
Jalaluddin's elder son, Sirajuddin, has so far been leading the network his father established almost two decades ago to fight the communist regime in Afghanistan after the former Soviet Union withdrew its forces from that country.
The network, comprising the Pakti clan of Afghan militants based in Paktia and Paktika, has been operating from the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan after the US-led invasion uprooted the Taliban regime in Kabul.
This change of leadership was a “strategic move to make sure that there will not be any crisis if one leader got killed”, one of the group's associates told the daily. However, intelligence officials said they suspected another reason.
“It is to save him from the public exposure...they don't feel safe after an intensified drone campaign against them by the US,” an official said.
Sirajuddin was the real inspirational character in the network and a replacement for Jalaluddin and the militant groups wanted to have him whether he led its operations or not, the official said.
Another Al Qaeda-affiliated group based in same region and led by veteran militant leader Ilyas Kashmiri too is in the process of creating several small cells to cause confusion and for the division of labour.
The Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami was converted to Al Qaeda's 313 Brigade and then renamed as Lashkar-e-Zil, officials and local residents said. PTI