Post Credit: Let Us Build Pakistan Blog
[The Mullah-Military (ISI-Taliban) Alliance Remains Intact?]
11:16am UK, Monday August 03, 2009
Alex Crawford, Asia correspondent
Sky News has obtained exclusive and conclusive proof that one of Pakistan’s most feared Taliban leaders is alive – contradicting government claims that he was killed months ago.
The Pakistani Government said Khalid died months ago
Umer Khalid, who is also known as Abdul Wali, was thought to have died in the Pakistani government’s crackdown against extremists.
But our pictures show him not only alive and well, but with four hostages whom he is threatening to kill unless the authorities free Taliban prisoners they are holding.
Khalid allowed himself to be filmed to disprove the official claims and apparently to initiate negotiations with the authorities.
The Interior Minister Rehamn Malik told reporters in January that Khalid was among those killed in an attack on militant extremists in the Mohmand Agency, part of Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The claims were denied by the Taliban at the time.
The footage – which was filmed within the last few days – shows Khalid relaxing and smiling with a group of young, armed men who form his fighting group.
He says he has 35,000 fighters under his control but this figure is impossible to verify.
Sky’s cameraman is allowed to film the militant leader signing a paper giving his access to the four hostages.
The four hostages are sitting together in a line still wearing their security uniforms.
They belong to the Frontier Constabulary, which is the security force operating in the tribal areas.
US Special envoy, Richard Holbrooke
One of the men addresses the camera and says they have been held for three months.
He appeals to the government to release Taliban prisoners in exchange for their freedom.
Khalid tells Sky News that he has already killed two of his hostages but is willing to free the remaining four if five Taliban prisoners are let out of custody.
He appears to indicate he is ready to negotiate with the authorities.
The pictures of the Taliban leader coincide with concerns voiced by the US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan over the success of the military operation in the Swat Valley.
Richard Holbrooke said he was not sure whether the operation had achieved its aim of driving the Taliban out of the former tourist spot.
There are increasing worries that the militants may have just shifted to other areas in the country or gone underground.
Holbrooke is the first high-profile member of the Obama administration to voice doubts over the operation in public.
The new US administration has up until now given great support to Pakistan’s attempts to curb extremism in the country.
The pictures showing Umer Khalid alive are likely to heap further embarrassment on the government.