Along with Khurasani, nine of his JuA associates were also killed in the American drone hit, which reflects a change in Washington’s Af-Pak policy. The past three weeks have seen a surge in the US strikes.
The US has inflicted a severe blow to the banned Pakistani militant group, Jamaat ul Ahrar (JuA). Its chief, Umar Khalid Khorasani, was the target of the recent drone strike in Paktia province. He sustained serious injuries in the attack and died on Wednesday, October 19th evening, according to JuA spokesman Asad Mansoor.
The group has since named Dost Muhammad, alias Asad Afridi, as its new chief. He had joined JuA in 2014 and is based in Afghanistan. JuA draws its cadres mostly from the Mohmand tribe to which its founder, Khurasani, belonged. And he came into limelight a decade ago when he seized control of historic shrine, Haji Turangzai in Mohmand and named it after Islamabad’s infamous Lal Masjid.
Khursani made his group a part of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, TTP, an umbrella organisation of Pakistani militant groups but the alliance was shortlived. He left the TTP after its Chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan in November 2013.
Khurasani, whose real name is Abul Wali, started his public career as a journalist. As Talibanisation spread across Pakistan, he became one of the founding members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
JuA is blamed for targeted killings and extortions. After the Pakistan military launched an operation in Mohmand and other tribal areas, Khurasani moved lock, stock and barrel to eastern Afghanistan, where his end came.
Pakistani militants, mostly from South and North Waziristan, have sanctuaries in the eastern Khost and Paktiya provinces of Afghanistan, according to by-lined report in Daily Times, a Lahore publication. Pakistani security officials insist that JuA has set up bases in Lalpura district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
Along with Khurasani, nine associates were also killed in the American drone hit, which reflects a change in Washington’s Af-Pak policy. The past three weeks have seen a surge in the US strikes. At least 70 strikes – both drone and ground were conducted and over 30 militants have been killed days after Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife and three children were freed from the captivity of Haqqani Network; the couple were taken hostage five years ago.
Going by media reports, Khurasani’s death suggested resumption of intelligence sharing and coordination between Pakistan and the US.
“The resumption of drone strikes on anti-Pakistan elements following hard stance on Trump’s Afghan policy signals moderation of positions by Islamabad and Washington,” leading Pakistan security analyst Imtiaz Gul told AFP. “Both countries now seem to be back to their business,” he said.
Khurasani, whose real name is Abul Wali, started his public career as a journalist. As Talibanisation spread across Pakistan, he became one of the founding members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). And TTP Mohmand chapter worked as “state within a state”. Soon he became a formidable military commander.
Khurasani is believed to have had strong links to Al Qaeda and its chief, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. A TTP JuA source told Daily Times that nearly 50 Ahrar supporters had joined Daesh (Islamic State, IS), which is said to have set up a base in Afghanistan. Those who switched loyalty include Omar Khitab, Sajid, both senior commanders, and Dr Islam Abid, who headed the group’s medical unit.
The JuA first came to prominence in 2014 when it claimed responsibility for the attack on Wagah post on Pak-India border. At least 61 people were killed in the attack and over 100 others were injured. The group has claimed responsibility for a number of recent attacks targeting Pakistani military and law enforcement personnel, government buildings, politicians, minority groups and lawyers.
Early this year (2017), JuA carried out suicide attacks targeting police officials on Lahore’s Mall Road, and the Shia community in Parachinar. Thirteen people were killed and 85 injured in the Lahore attack; more than 72 lost their lives in Parachinar.
In July, the UN Security Council approved the addition of JuA in the list of entities and individuals subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.