Isis in Pakistan: 13 former Taliban militants accused of attempting to set up new affiliate

Authorities claim Isis has no presence in the country, where the Taliban is fighting a bloody insurgency

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The Independent Online

A group of Islamists attempting to set up what officials claimed would have been Isis’ first affiliate in the Pakistan have been arrested.

Counterterrorism sources said 13 men had been captured during a raid in eastern Punjab in recent days and are being interrogated.

Weapons and computer equipment were reportedly seized from the group, who allegedly pledged allegiance to the self-declared caliph of the “Islamic State”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Pakistan bomber kills 21

Anonymous officials told the Associated Press nine of the suspects appeared in court on Tuesday, when a judge granted police 10 days to question them.

“Our initial information is that some of the detained men are former members of the Pakistani Taliban,” one official said.

The second official said arrests were made after communication intercepts but refused to share any further details, saying the investigation was still at an early stage. 

Local authorities insist Isis has no footprint in Pakistan, which has long battled the Taliban and other homegrown militants, but Isis has reportedly been collaborating with local militant groups.

Previous pledges of allegiance to the group have also been reported and a group of former Taliban militants from Pakistan and Afghanistan filmed themselves beheading a captive in Isis’ name earlier this year.

Two Pakistanis have been arrested alongside a British suspect in Turkey on suspicion of being members of Isis.

The Pakistani men were detained during a raid on a home in Istanbul on Christmas Eve and their information led to the British suspect’s arrest the following day.

They are believed to have links to another Briton, Aine Leslie Davis, who was arrested in Istanbul last month and is said to be an associate of Mohammed Emwazi.

Meanwhile, the Taliban continues its violent insurgency in Pakistan, with a suicide bomber killing at least 22 people in the north-western city of Mardan today.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which broke away from the Pakistani Taliban last year but reportedly re-joined in March, claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling it a “noble act”. 

Additional reporting by agencies