Afghan terror group threatens attacks on Pakistan political leaders

Security officials guard a blocked road leading to a counter-terrorism center after security forces starting to clear the compound seized earlier by Pakistani Taliban militants in Bannu, a northern district in the Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Dec. 20, 2022.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has issued a warning explicitly to the leaders of the two major partners in the ruling Pakistani coalition, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The PML-N is headed by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the PPP by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, threatened Wednesday that it would unleash attacks on the country’s political leadership for declaring war on the outfit to allegedly “appease” the United States.

The TTP, listed as a global terrorist organization by the U.S. and the United Nations at large, has lately carried out almost daily attacks, killing hundreds of Pakistani security forces and civilians.

The militant warning came after Sharif chaired a meeting Monday of the National Security Committee (NSC), the country’s highest security-related forum comprising political and military leadership and vowed that terrorism “will be dealt with full force of the state.”

Pakistani officials say the TTP, an offshoot and ally of Afghanistan’s ruling Islamist Taliban, has unleashed its recent wave of terrorist attacks from across the Afghan side of the border. The NSC meeting also issued a subtle warning to Taliban rulers, saying “no country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists.”

On Tuesday, a U.S. State Department spokesperson backed Pakistan’s renewed resolve against terrorism and again urged the Afghan Taliban to deliver on their counterterrorism pledges.

“The Pakistani people have suffered tremendously from terrorist attacks. Pakistan has a right to defend itself from terrorism,” Ned Price told reporters in Washington. “We continue to call on the Taliban to uphold the very commitment they have made to see to it that Afghan soil is never again used as a launchpad for international terrorist attacks,” he said. “These are among the very commitments that the Taliban have been unable or unwilling to fulfill to date,” Price said.

Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said this week that Afghanistan harbored an “overwhelming presence” of TTP members. “We have been requesting the Taliban ever since they returned to power (in Kabul) to stop the TTP from plotting terrorist activities in Pakistan,” Asif told local media Monday. He said Islamabad hopes the rulers in Kabul would help rein in the terrorists.

A spokesman for the Taliban administration Tuesday rejected Pakistani allegations as “false” and “regrettable.” Zabihullah Mujahid said that his government, which is yet to be given legitimacy by the world, wants peaceful relations with all neighboring countries, including Pakistan, to promote Afghan as well as regional peace and stability.

TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud and commanders have taken refuge on the Afghan side of the border after fleeing counterterrorism military operations in Pakistan.

Officials in Islamabad say the militants have been roaming freely in Afghanistan and directing cross-border terrorism with greater freedom since the Taliban takeover.

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