Pakistani Taliban claim killing of foreign tourists

Sunday 23 Jun 2013

Pakistan's Taliban claims responsibility for an attack that killed nine foreign climbers in the Himalayas

Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement on Sunday claimed responsibility for killing nine foreign climbers in the Himalayas, saying it had created a new wing to attack foreigners to avenge US drone strikes.

Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan telephoned AFP to say that the killings were intended to avenge the death of the second in command of the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in a US drone strike late last month.

"We did it and we claim responsibility for this attack," Ehsan said in the call from an undisclosed location.

"One of our factions, Junood ul-Hifsa, did it. It is to avenge the killing of Maulvi Wali ur-Rehman," he said.

"We want to convey to the world that this is our reply to US drone attacks," he added.

Rehman died on May 29 in a US drone attack on a house in North Waziristan, the most notorious Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan on the Afghan border.

TTP vowed to avenge his death a day later, accusing Pakistan's government of being responsible for the attack.

Ehsan told AFP that Junood ul-Hifsa was a new wing set up by the Taliban "to attack foreigners and convey a message to the world against drone strikes".

The TTP, a nebulous collection of factions, has been waging a domestic insurgency since July 2007 but is not previously known to have a presence in Gilgit.

Rehman, who had a $5 million bounty on his head, was accused by Washington of organising attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and also wanted him in connection with a suicide attack on an American base in Afghanistan in 2009 that killed seven CIA agents.

The 42-year-old had been a key figure in the TTP since its inception in 2007 and was second-in-command of the national hierarchy behind Hakimullah Mehsud, as well as leading the group in South Waziristan.

He was seen as a more moderate force than Mehsud and there had been the impression he could have a role to play in possible peace negotiations, but the TTP said it had withdrawn an offer of talks after his death.

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