Taliban plot with seminaries to assault capital if peace talks fail

ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban will coordinate with religious activists at major seminaries in or near Islamabad, to launch attacks if peace talks with the government fail, police said in a report obtained by Reuters.
Talks got going in February but have achieved little. The Pakistani Taliban called a ceasefire beginning on March 1 to facilitate the talks but it officially ended on Thursday. It is unclear if the ceasefire will be extended. Police said in the report that two well-known seminaries would support attacks in the capital and its twin city of Rawalpindi if the talks break down and the military moves against Taliban bases in areas bordering Afghanistan. 
“If talks between the government and the Taliban fail ... like-minded religious seminaries and mosques have been given the target of fully contributing in carrying out attacks,” police said in the report, which was prepared last month. Police identified two well-known madrasas on the outskirts of Islamabad. They said the two had already helped launch several attacks, including a 2009 assault on the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi. One is led by a cleric called Azizur Rehman Hazarvi. 
It provides “brainwashing courses and lessons on sacrificing oneself for jihad”, police said in the report. The other is run by Fazlur Rehman Khalil, who is on a US terror watch-list and signed a 1996 fatwa or decree from Osama bin Laden in which he declared war on the United States. At Khalil’s seminary, commanders provide “jihadi weapons training classes” to students from the ethnic Pashtun tribal areas which have long been militant recruiting grounds, police said. 
The two seminaries also host fighters who come to carry out attacks and help with “all last minute preparations”, they said. Militant fighters have set themselves up with activists at hardline mosques in Islamabad before. In 2007, more than 100 people were killed when security forces assaulted the Red Mosque in the heart of the capital after well-armed fighters from the tribal areas and followers of the mosque’s clerics running a Taliban-style movement refused to surrender. Police and government spokesmen declined to comment on the report but security officials who requested not to be identified said the information was correct. 

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