PESHAWAR, Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban on Saturday vowed to send fighters to help the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria, adding the group should set aside its differences with other jihadist organizations in that region.
IS jihadists have taken over vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, but have also been vying for supremacy with other militant groups like the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra front, which it formally cut ties with in February.
Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which was formed in 2007 and formally allies itself with Al-Qaeda, urged all jihadist organizations fighting in the Middle East to unite for the greater good.
Speaking to AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location, he said: “From the very beginning when IS did not exist we are helping and supporting the Mujahideen of Iraq and Syria,” adding his group had sent between 1,000 to 1,500 fighters to the region so far.
“We will keep on sending Mujahideen to help IS militants, we completely support them. Because we think that this organization was made to serve Islam,” he added, without mentioning a formal allegiance.
The subject of sending Pakistani fighters to Syria is touchy for Pakistan’s government which has denied that any such movements have taken place.
In an earlier statement sent to journalists, he called upon the competing jihadist organizations in Iraq and Syria to “Bring unity among your ranks, particularly in the circumstances when the enemies are standing united in one row against you,” referring to air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition that intensified in September.
Analysts believe IS is keen to make inroads in Pakistan, where its efforts so far have been restricted to the distribution of pamphlets inside some bazaars of the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Al-Qaeda, which provides mainly financing and coordination assistance, presently has linkages with many Pakistani militant groups and recently undertook a rebranding effort to head off any potential competition.
The Taliban’s call for unity between the jihadist groups comes even as its own group faces deepening internal divisions, with the newly-formed Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Taliban issuing its own video message Saturday, in Arabic, offering to mediate between IS and Al-Qaeda.
“In such painful times the Tehreek-e-Taliban Jamaat ul Ahrar urge the mujahedeen in Iraq and in the Levant to agree amongst themselves and confront the enemies of Allah (God),” a narrator says.
“If you wish to do so we offer to mediate… and we are ready to send you a delegation from Pakistan to mediate.”
The Jamaat ul Ahrar faction led by Omar Khalid Khorasani, split from the bloc led by Maulanah Fazlullah in September, with both groups accusing the other of treachery.