April 2012 Briefs

Publication: Militant Leadership Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 4


Adnan Rashid was one of 384 inmates freed from a prison in Bannu, Pakistan on April 13 (Daily Times [Peshawar], April 16). The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the rescue operation and said that Rashid, who was in his eighth year on death row for allegedly masterminding an assassination plot of President Pervez Musharraf in 2003, was their “prime target” (Zeenews [Islamabad], April 21). Rashid, a native of Swabi district of Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was a junior technician in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) at the time.

It is unclear what type of leadership role Rashid will play for the TTP, but given his current celebrity status and legitimacy for having conspired against Musharraf, he may become one of the more charismatic faces of the Pakistani Taliban in the future. Rashid appeared on a YouTube video following his escape, jubilantly responding to questions confirming his identity and admitting that he was on death row for the plot against Musharraf (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0IIo2v1WpA, April 19). Pakistan has launched an operation to track down the escapees, including Rashid, but the Taliban will not let Rashid fall back into government hands; the propaganda triumph of freeing him depends on successfully protecting him and reintegrating him into Taliban ranks.

According to TTP spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan, 150 fighters took part in the two-hour prison attack, although only 50 fighters were operational; the other 100 stood outside of the prison with explosive vests. The attack highlights Pakistan’s ineptitude in confronting the Taliban. Out of 93 policemen in Bannu on April 13, 63 were absent from duty and only 10 of the on-duty officers were armed. Similarly, only six out of the 20 Frontier Reserve Police personnel were on-duty. This left only 36 security officials to guard 946 prisoners (The News [Peshawar/Bannu], April 16). Moreover, even on death row, Rashid was using Facebook and other social networking websites and a cell phone to send text messages and communicate with journalists, and presumably also his Taliban rescuers (IB Time, April 17).  Rashid had been transferred to Bannu prison from a jail in Peshawar and before that from a jail in Haripur, but he maintained this high level of connectedness with the outside world in all three facilities. That the Taliban had complete maps of the interior of the prison and surrounding areas and carried out a flawless rescue is hardly surprising.



Boko Haram is now searching for Abu Qaqa III because Abu Qaqa I has been arrested and Abu Qaqa II has been killed. Abu Qaqa I, a Boko Haram spokesperson and member of the Shura Council, was arrested by Nigerian security forces on February 2 in Kaduna. Under interrogation he revealed information that led to the capture of the Kabiru Sokoto, the mastermind of the Abuja UN headquarters suicide car bombing on August 26, 2011 in which 21 people were killed (Vanguard, February 12). Abu Qaqa I also revealed that the leader of Boko Haram, Abu Shekau, orders the killing of any fighter who refuses to carry out a suicide attack and that Kanuris in Boko Haram have been selling out fighters from minority ethnic groups, including Abu Qaqa I, who is from the Ebiru ethnic group (The Nation [Abuja], February 7). In retaliation for Abu Qaqa’s statements, on March 26 Boko Haram killed Abu Qaqa I’s father in Maiduguri (The Nation, April 15).

The replacement for Abu Qaqa I was “Abu Qaqa II.” His real name was Mohammed Anwal from Kontagora in Niger State and, like Abu Qaqa I, he was a non-Kanuri. He was reportedly killed less than one month after taking over for Abu Qaqa I. After realizing that he was being trailed by Nigerian security forces, Abu Qaqa II tried to denounce Boko Haram and defect, but when this was discovered by Boko Haram he was ordered killed by Boko Haram’s leader Abu Shekau (All Africa, April 15). With Abu Qaqa I and Abu Qaqa II out of the picture, Abu Shekau played the role of spokesman for Boko Haram in the interim and issued a statement on YouTube mocking President Goodluck Jonathan for his faulty prediction that Boko Haram would be dismantled by the end of 2012 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ5D0xYbPM8, April 19).

It is not out of place for Shekau to play the dual role of spokesman and leader, but the group may be struggling to find consistency in delivering its messages. After an Easter Sunday bombing in Kaduna that killed more than 20 motorcyclists and vendors, mostly Muslims, it was unclear whether Boko Haram took credit for the attack. The internal divisions in Boko Haram’s leadership may also affect its ability to negotiate with the government since Abu Qaqa I was one of Boko Haram’s lead negotiators and it is unclear who, other than Abu Shekau, has the power to actually follow through with an agreement.