Conflicting reports are emerging from the province of Nuristan in Afghanistan, some alleging that Maulvi Fazlullah, a.k.a. ‘Mulla Radio,’ has been killed in fierce fighting along with six companions. On Thursday, a group of insurgents took on Afghanistan National Army troops in Nuristan, with heavy fighting continuing on Friday. Maulvi Fazlullah was one of the founders of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan or TTP) in the early zeroes in the Swat Valley.
Afghanistan’s Pajwhok News Agency said:
Police in the eastern Afghan province of Nuristan have called for help after fierce clashes with hundreds of Taliban fighters belong to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Seven Taliban and two policemen have been killed in the fighting so far, the Afghan interior ministry says. Officials say nearly 300 insurgents led by Pakistani Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah entered the area this week.”
Insurgents are said to have taken over the province after the US withdrew from distant outposts there in response to bold attacks on them.
He is known to have fled Pakistan in the wake of the Swat campaign in spring-summer of 2009. (His Taliban had increasing taken over Swat, provoking a backlash from the locals and from the Pakistani government, which sent in troops to take it back from the insurgents.)
Express Tribune has video on the life and career of Maulvi Fazlullah:
Pakistan’s The News reports on denials of Fazullah’s death by other Taliban far from the scene.
Syed Saleem Shahzad argued last year that Nuristan is largely in the hands of a branch of the Taliban adhering to the Salafi school of fundamentalist Islam. It is said to be hospitable to Arab expatriate fighters, and to have closer links to Bin Laden and al-Qaeda than other so-called ‘Taliban.’ Nuristan also hosts hundreds of TTP members who fled Pakistan as a result of the Pakistani military’s move into the Swat Valley in spring-summer 2009.
Maulvi Fazlullah was earlier claimed dead in late 2008 air strikes, which notably failed.