Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Lashkar-e-Islam form coalition with Pakistani Taliban.
Three major militant groups in Pakistan’s northwest have put aside their differences and pledged support to the main insurgent group confronting a full-scale military offensive, commanders said on Thursday.
Pakistan’s military has stepped up its fight against militants since Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, at a school in Peshawar in December.
On Thursday, leaders of Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Islam pledged allegiance to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which claimed responsibility for the deadly school shooting.
TTP is led by Mullah Fazlullah, who is believed to have ordered the 2012 shooting that gravely injured Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
“We congratulate the Ummaat-e-Muslima and especially the mujahideen of Pakistan for the coalition of strong jihadi groups,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman, said in an emailed statement.
Lashkar-e-Islam, led by warlord Mangal Bagh, has also joined the alliance, Ehsan said.
The group is feared for kidnappings and extortion in Khyber, one of seven tribal districts along the Afghan border.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar split from TTP last year but has claimed many attacks against soldiers and Shia Muslims.
TTP main spokesman Muhammad Khorasani confirmed the re-alliance in a separate statement sent via email. Both the spokesmen threatened to carry out more attacks against Pakistani troops “jointly.”
A Taliban commander in the country’s northwest told AFP that representatives of the three militant groups met somewhere in eastern Afghanistan and decided to align after holding several meetings.