Videos show militants' reach in northwest Pakistan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan |
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - If U.S. policy makers need proof of how little control Pakistan has over its strategic border region with Afghanistan, all they need to do is watch videos available on YouTube of militants believed to be terrorizing the streets of North Warizistan.
Armed men in black with balaclavas freely roam the streets of one of the biggest towns in North Waziristan, where the United States wants Pakistan's military to launch an offensive against militant groups.
There are no signs of security forces as the men belonging to a militant hit squad created to hunt suspected U.S. spies throw a man into a station wagon and pin him down.
Nervous bystanders keep their distance. Another man looks horrified as militants haul him off a pick up truck. Both are shown in another video being blown up by explosives placed at their feet.
The United States has been piling pressure on Pakistan to go after militants in North Waziristan -- many of whom attack Western forces in Afghanistan -- since American special forces killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town in May.
Admiral Mike Mullen said before retiring as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff last month that the Haqqani group that attacked U.S. targets in Afghanistan was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The remarks infuriated Pakistani leaders, who denied links to the group and said Pakistan had sacrificed more than any other country that joined the U.S. "war on terror" after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The videos, distributed in markets across North Waziristan to keep people from providing tips to be used for U.S. drone missile strikes on militants, were a reminder of the insecurity of the border region.
Washington believes Afghanistan can't be stabilized unless Pakistan eliminates militancy in the forbidding frontier areas.
Pakistan's army chief told parliamentarians that the United States should focus on pacifying Afghanistan instead of pushing Pakistan to attack North Waziristan, and that Pakistan would decide if and when to act there.
He said any unilateral U.S. military action in North Waziristan would be risky.
Militant groups like the one in the videos -- known as the Khurasan -- seem to operate with impunity there.
Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network -- blamed for a September 13 attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul -- picked the most ruthless fighters from their ranks in 2009 to form the Khurasan unit, for a special mission.
The Obama administration was escalating drone strikes on militants in the Pakistani tribal areas on the Afghan border and something had to be done to stop the flow of tips used for the U.S. aerial campaign.
In the videos, the militants were wearing shirts with patches bearing their group's name, Mujahideen al-Khurasan, and none seemed worried about being captured or killed.
Throughout the footage, a Khurasan song could be heard.
"These people in white cars and black windows are pursuing their aim. They are the Khurasan," it said.
But there plenty of reasons to fear them. The group has gone rogue. Its brutal methods, such as electrocutions and drilling during interrogations, alienated Taliban leaders, men who would not hesitate to order beheadings.
(Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Michael Georgy)
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