Zarqawi - the link between Pakistani and Iraqi militants

Zarqawi - the link between Pakistani and Iraqi militants
A US military officer shows a picture of the dead Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who was killed in a drone strike in June 2006.

PESHAWAR: If there ever was a strong bond between Pakistani militants and the Jihadists in Iraq, it was Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Born Ahmad Fadeel al Nazal al Khulayleh, the 40-year-old Jordanian had lived for nearly 10 years in Pakistan.

He lived and moved around in Peshawar and some of the tribal agencies, spoke fluent Pushto and created roots as strong as marrying a woman from one of the local tribes.

When he moved to Iraq to establish Jamaat al Tauhid wal Jihad, which later became Al Qaeda in Iraq, it was but a matter of time before Pakistani militants would re-establish linkages with Jihadists in Iraq and later in Syria.

"The linkages are old," a security official said. "Many of the veterans of Afghan war are now leading the fight in Iraq and Syria."

Fighters made a beeline - quietly. "Not in droves but in ones and twos," the official said.

"Not just ours but others too, who have been here in this region for ages, left to fight in Iraq and Syria," he said of the Pakistani and foreign fighters.

But Pakistani officials would not have bothered much as long as the militants were "leaving and not coming" had the emergence of Islamic State and its `caliph', Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, not caught the imagination of Pakistani militants.

It was in early July that Pakistan's security apparatus picked up indications of militants pledging allegiance to IS.

Last month, a printed booklet "Fatah" (Victory), was distributed in a refugee camp near Peshawar that pledged allegiance to IS.

The group distributing the booklet introduced itself as Daulat-i-Islamiyah, or Islamic State, appealed to locals to support the establishment of a caliphate.

Soon afterwards, a former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman, Abu Omar Maqbool al Khurasani alias Shahidullah Shahid, declared his allegiance to Baghdadi, along with five other `commanders'.

Shahidullah Shahid made it clear they were doing so in their individual capacity and not as representative of the former militant platform.

This was followed by the emergence of graffiti supporting DAISH (Daulat-i-Islamiyah fil Iraq wal Sham) - in short the Islamic State - in Karachi and Multan as well as hoisting of its black flags in Bahawalpur.

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