PESHAWAR, Pakistan—Six leading figures of the Pakistani Taliban pledged allegiance to the terror group ISIS, one of them claimed in an audio message released Tuesday. Shahidullah Shahidm announced the leaders' loyalty to ISIS, which declared the creation of an Islamic State in June, but made it clear he was not speaking for the rest of the Pakistani Taliban or its leader, Maulana Fazlullah.
"I pledge allegiance to the Khalifa of the Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," said Shahidm, referring to ISIS’ leader. "I will obey and listen to his every instruction, no matter what the circumstances and whether I like it or not." Shahidm is the main spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), and a powerful figure within the group. The other five that he claimed were joining him were the TTP’s regional commanders of the Orakzai, Hangu, Khyber, Peshawar and Kuram district, all tribal or violent, sectarian-torn regions.
"Neither the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan nor its leader Maulana Fazlullah had issued me any directive to announce my allegiance to ISIS," he added. "But five senior leaders and I myself decided to join al-Baghdadi al-Qarshi." NBC News was not able to reach the other five TTP figures mentioned: Hafiz Saeed Khan, Hafiz Daulat Khan, Maulana Gul Zaman, Mufti Hassan and Khalid Mansoor. Many members of the TTP were unhappy when leaders began peace talks with the Pakistan government this year.
Raffaello Pantucci, at the Royal United Services Institute, said Shahidm's announcement was "a propaganda win for ISIS, absolutely." He added: "It shows there are other groups following its message and listening to what it has to say." Pantucci, who is Director of International Security Studies at RUSI, said the message "accentuated the fragmentation that seems to have been happening within the TTP" since its previous leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike last year.
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