PESHAWAR, Pakistan, AFP
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 organisations 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 organisation 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 organisations 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 US-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.