Factbox: Militant groups in Pakistan

By Chris Allbritton

(BestGrowthStock) – The investigation into the failed Times Square bomb attack has revealed possible links between the accused Pakistani-American man and militant groups in Pakistan’s Punjab province and northwestern Pashtun tribal areas.

U.S. prosecutors said Faisal Shahzad, 30, the son of a retired Pakistani vice air marshal, has admitted to receiving bomb-making training in a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan. Reconstructing his path to Times Square will be difficult given the complexity of Pakistan’s mosaic of militant groups, many of which are united only by hatred for America and its allies.

Here are some facts about some of the militant groups operating in Pakistan.

TEHRIK-E-TALIBAN PAKISTAN (Taliban Movement of Pakistan)

The most notorious of the Pakistani Taliban groups, the TTP is the organization most influenced by al Qaeda and focuses much of its energy on attacking the Pakistani state.

Formed by militants of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, its first leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in August 2009 in a U.S. drone strike. His successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was thought to have been killed in a similar strike in January, but two tapes released last weekend showed that he is still alive.

The TTP has been implicated or claimed credit for scores of suicide attacks across Pakistan often targeting military, security and political sites over the last few years.

Hakimullah claimed responsibility for a daring suicide attack on Peshawar’s Pearl Continental hotel last year that killed seven people, including two U.N. workers.

His fighters regularly ambush trucks taking supplies through the Khyber Pass to Afghan government and Western forces across the border.

The TTP has links to both al Qaeda — because the two share a geography — and it works closely with Punjabi militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad and Laskkar-e-Jhangvi.

HAQQANI NETWORK

Based mainly in North Waziristan and adjoining provinces in Afghanistan, the Haqqani Network is headed by a hero of the anti-Soviet jihad, Jalaluddin Haqqani, although day-to-day operations are run by his son, Sirajuddin.

The Haqqani network was for long an ally and asset of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and they are believed to maintain links.

It mostly attacks U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Attacks against Pakistani forces and civilians are rare. The Haqqani Network has close political ties with Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad but maintains its military independence.

LASHKAR-E-JHANGVI

The LeJ is a Punjab-based militant group formed to battle Pakistan’s Shi’ite minority community, but since its formation in 1996, it has branched out, targeting a church, Western oil workers and possibly kidnapping and murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Its ties with Mullah Omar and the Taliban in Afghanistan go back years, but since it started attacking Pakistani security forces, that relationship has frayed.

QUETTA SHURA

The Quetta Shura is the remains of the Afghan Taliban government overthrown and driven into Pakistan by the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan.

Headed by Mullah Omar, the so-called “Commander of the Faithful,” it is believed to be based in the city of Quetta in Baluchistan near the southern Afghan border.

Omar eschews attacks inside Pakistan and, like his Haqqani allies, follows an Afghanistan-centered campaign against NATO and American forces.

Pakistani intelligence agencies reportedly maintain good relations with the Quetta Shura. While recognized by the TTP for spiritual guidance, tensions persist because of Hakimullah Mehsud’s operations against Pakistan.

JAISH-E-MOHAMMAD

The JeM (Army of Mohammad) was formed in 2000 to liberate what it considers Indian-occupied Kashmir. But since then, it has splintered.

It is blamed for numerous attacks against Pakistani civilian and military targets and has also been blamed for Pearl’s murder.

It has links to Afghanistan dating back to the war against the Soviet occupation and still recruits and trains thousands of young men to fight Western forces in Afghanistan.

Several of Shahzad’s associates appear to be linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad.

LASHKAR-E-TAIBA

Long considered the most cohesive and deadly of the Punjab-based groups, it is careful to avoid attacks inside Pakistan and instead focuses on Kashmir and India.

It is blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, and reports say it maintains ties to the ISI — a source of great tension between India and Pakistan.

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(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

(For more coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: http://www.reuters.com/places/afghanistan-Pakistan)

Factbox: Militant groups in Pakistan