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Pakistani Taliban say no shift to Syria

17 July, 2013

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PESHAWAR: The Taliban on Tuesday rejected suggestions they were sending fighters to Syria, saying some have gone there independently but the movement's focus remained in Pakistan.

Taliban sources said some militants, mainly Arabs and Central Asians, had gone to fight the forces of President Bashar al Assad, but a senior leader dismissed reports of them setting up camps in Syria.

Since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, foreign jihadists have flocked to Syria, where disparate rebel groups are seeking his downfall.

Some media reports say scores of Pakistani Taliban are among them and they have set up camps in Syria.

A senior commander who sits on the shura or ruling council of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told AFP there was no tactical shift and no decision had been made to send forces to Syria.

"There is no reality in these reports, we have far better targets in the region, NATO troops headed by the Americans are present in Afghanistan," he said on condition of anonymity.

"We are already in a war with Pakistani troops. We support the mujahideen's struggle in Syria but in our opinion, we have a lot more to do here in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

The TTP is an umbrella group for numerous factions trying to bring down the Pakistani state. It has ties with the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda.

"The great evil (America) is here in Afghanistan, troops from 30 kafir (non-believer) countries are attacking innocent people in Afghanistan, so Bashar al Assad is not that important for us," the TTP commander said.

"Obama is the big evil, Americans are a much bigger evil for us. The Taliban shura has never discussed sending mujahideen to Syria."

Another mid-ranking TTP commander in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district, said some fighters had gone to Syria "in a personal capacity".

A third senior TTP cadre said those who went were mostly Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad erupted, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Ismail, an Arab fighter from al Qaeda, told AFP in northwest Pakistan that he planned to join the fight against Assad. "I am going to Syria in the next few days, my family will stay here," he said.

"Our mujahideen are going not only to Syria but also to Lebanon, Egypt and other Arab countries."

End.

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