South Waziristan

Zain Group

The Zain Group (also known as Abdullah Mehsud Group) is a Pakistani militant organization, which formed in South Waziristan following an internal feud within Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in July 2007.

AT A GLANCE

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Overview

Brief Summary of the Organization's History.

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Organization

How does a group organize? Who leads it? How does it finance operations?

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Strategy

How does a group fight? What are its aims and ideologies? What are some of its major attacks?

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Major Attacks

What are the group's most famous attacks? What are some key attacks in the group's evolution?

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Interactions

What is the group's relationship with the community? How does it interact with other groups?

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Maps

What is the group's relationship with other militants over time?

Key Statistics

2007 First Recorded Activity
2009 First Attack

Contact

MAPPINGMILITANTS@LISTS.STANFORD.EDU

How to Cite:

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Zain Group.” Stanford University. Last modified June 2018.mappingmilitants.cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/profiles/zain-group

Overview

Brief History

    Overview
  • Overview
  • Narrative

Overview

Formed2007
DisbandedGroup is active.
UpdatedAugust 22, 2012

Also known as Abdullah Mehsud group. Qari Zainuddin Mehsud split from Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-i-Taliban-aligned group in 2007, following the death of his TTP-affiliated cousin Abdullah Mehsud. Zain blamed Baitullah for the death of his cousin as well as several other family members. Zain led his anti-Baitullah, pro-government splinter group in what has been called a “blood feud” with this rival TTP group. Zain’s group, estimated between 700 and 3,000 strong, is based in the KP province but seeks to fight Baitullah’s forces in South Waziristan. Zain’s group accepted help from the Pakistani government, which was also seeking to defeat Baitullah. Zain was assassinated on June 23, 2009 by a trusted guard loyal to Baitullah. Baitullah’s forces in the TTP have claimed responsibility. Since Zain’s death, Misbahuddin Mehsud (Toofas Mehsud) is the new leader, and has reaffirmed the fight against Baitullah as well as claimed support for Taliban militants in Afghanistan fighting jihad against the US forces, particularly for Mullah Omar.

Narrative

The Zain Group (also known as Abdullah Mehsud Group) is a Pakistani militant group that split from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in 2007 under the leadership of Qari Zainuddin. Zainuddin and his followers split from TTP when Baitullah Mehsud assumed the leadership after he allegedly gave the Pakistani government sensitive information that led to the death of the former leader, Abdullah Mehsud. The Zain Group held Baitullah responsible for Abdullah’s death and split with the goal of targeting TTP.[i]

 

Since its founding, the Zain Group has enjoyed support from the Pakistani government due to their overlapping interests in weakening TTP. According to a spokesperson from the Zain Group, Pakistan has provided modest funding to the organization through a zakat fund.[ii] In 2009, the Zain Group and Pakistani government cooperated in military operations targeting TTP leader Baitullah.[iii]

 

On June 23, 2009, the Zain Group leader Zainuddin was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, who is suspected to have been working for TTP leader Baitullah.[iv] The leadership of the Zain Group was then passed on to Misbahuddin Mehsud, who also reaffirmed the group’s commitment to fight TTP. Under his leadership, the Zain group also pledged support to Mullah Omar and Taliban militants in Afghanistan fighting against U.S. forces.[v]

 

In July 2009, three minor Taliban commanders based in South Waziristan allegedly reformed the Zain Group and appointed Ikhlas Khan Mesud as the new leader of the organization. The group continues to target TTP in South Waziristan.[vi]

There are also reports that the Pakistani government continues to provide support to the Zain Group to deploy fighters to secure areas that have been cleared by the military's ground offensive.[vii]



[i] Yusufzai, Rahimullah. "The Significance Of Qari Zain’S Assassination In Pakistan | Combating Terrorism Center At West Point". Ctc.Usma.Edu. 2009. https://www.ctc.usma.edu//posts/the-significance-of-qari-zain%E2%80%99s-....

[ii] Tavernise, Sabrina, and Pir Zubair Shah. “Tough Battle in Stronghold for Pakistan Insurgency.” New York Times. June 16, 2009.

[iii] Yusufzai, Rahimullah. "The Significance Of Qari Zain’S Assassination In Pakistan | Combating Terrorism Center At West Point". Ctc.Usma.Edu. 2009. https://www.ctc.usma.edu//posts/the-significance-of-qari-zain%E2%80%99s-....

[iv] Roggio, Bill. "Anti-Baitullah Taliban Groups Merge, Appoint New Leader | FDD's Long War Journal". FDD's Long War Journal. July 22, 2009. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/07/antibaitullah_taliba.php.

[v] Walsh, Declan. "Strange bedfellows: Islamists and army join forces against insurgents." The Guardian. October 21, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/21/good-taliban-pakistan-army....

[vi] Roggio, Bill. "Anti-Baitullah Taliban Groups Merge, Appoint New ." FDD's Long War Journal. July 22, 2009. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/07/antibaitullah_taliba.php.

[vii] Yusufzai, Rahimullah. "The Significance Of Qari Zain’S Assassination In Pakistan.” Combating Terrorism Center At West Point. July 15, 2009. https://www.ctc.usma.edu//posts/the-significance-of-qari-zain%E2%80%99s-....

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Qari Zainuddin (2007 to June 23, 2009)
  • Misbahuddin Mehsud (2009 to unknown)
  • Ikhlas Khan Mehsud (2009 to unkown)

Leadership

This section describes various leaders, their deputies, and other important officials in the militant organization. 

Qari Zainuddin (2007 to June 23, 2009)

Qari Zainuddin (2007 to June 23, 2009): Qari Zainuddin led the separation of the Zain Group from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), following the death of TTP leader Abdullah Mehsud. On June 23, 2009, Zainuddin was killed by a bodyguard suspected to be acting on the orders of then TTP leader Baitullah.[i]



[i] Yusufzai, Rahimullah. "The Significance Of Qari Zain’S Assassination In Pakistan.” Combating Terrorism Center At West Point. July 15, 2009. https://www.ctc.usma.edu//posts/the-significance-of-qari-zain%E2%80%99s-....

 

 

Misbahuddin Mehsud (2009 to unknown)

Misbahuddin Mehsud (2009 to unknown): Misbahuddin Mehsud is the brother and also the successor to Qari Zainuddin. He has strived to eliminate TTP leadership and has directly cooperated with the Pakistani government in South Waziristan. While he had expressed a strong desire to avenge his brother’s death, he was not heard from after his brother’s funeral.[i]



[i] Syed, Samir. "Pakistan’s New Offensive in South Waziristan." CTC Sentinel. July 15, 2009. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/pakistan’s-new-offensive-in-south-waziristan-2.; Roggio, Bill. 2017. "Anti-Baitullah Taliban Groups Merge, Appoint New Leader | FDD's Long War Journal". FDD's Long War Journal. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/07/antibaitullah_taliba.php.

 

Ikhlas Khan Mehsud (2009 to unkown)

Ikhlas Khan Mehsud (2009 to unkown): Ikhlas also known as Waziristan Baba, was appointed as the leader of the Zain Group after Misbahuddin Mehsud’s leadership was ousted. He was strongly opposed by Misbahuddin on the grounds that he was not an established jihadi. Ikhlas has expressed his discontent with TTP leadership under Baitullah and even vowed to continue the fight against Baitullah’s followers in South Waziristan.[i]



[i] Roggio, Bill. 2017. "Anti-Baitullah Taliban Groups Merge, Appoint New Leader | FDD's Long War Journal". FDD's Long War Journal. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/07/antibaitullah_taliba.php; Gunaratna, Rohan, and Khuram Iqbal. Pakistan. 1st ed. London: Reaktion Books, 2012. Print.

 

    Name Changes
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

2009: 700-3,000 (Combating Terrorism Center, West Point)[i]



[i] Yusufzai, Rahimullah. “The Significance of Qari Zain’s Assassination in Pakistan.” Combating Terrorism Center, West Point. July 15, 2009.

 

 

Resources

The Zain Group claims that the Pakistani military has provided modest funding to support the group’s activities against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) through a religious donations fund, zakat.  The Pakistani government denies the claim.[i]



[i] Tavernise, Sabrina “Tough Battle in Stronghold for Pakistan Insurgency,” New York Times, June 16, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/16/world/asia/16pstan.html.

 

Geographic Locations

The Zain Group was originally based in South Waziristan agency located in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. In 2009, it shifted its base to the Dera Ismail Khan district in the North West Frontier Province. It mainly operates along the border of South Waziristan in districts such as Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.[i]



[i] Yusufzai, Rahimullah. " THE SIGNIFICANCE OF QARI ZAIN’S ASSASSINATION IN PAKISTAN." Combating Terrorism Center. July 15, 2009.  https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-significance-of-qari-zain’s-assassination-in-pakistan.

 

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

The Zain Group has deemed the use of terrorist operations within Pakistan as un-Islamic and has condemned other groups for doing so. While it has pledged allegiance to the Taliban in Afghanistan in its cause to counter the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the group’s main goal remains to rival Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).[i]



[i] Masood, Pir. "U.S. Drone Strike Said To Kill 60 In Pakistan." New York Times. June 23, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/world/asia/24pstan.html.

 

 

Political Activities

The Zain Group has coordinated directly with the Pakistani government in the offensive against Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The government invited Qari Zainuddin to the capital city of Islamabad following its announcement of military operations targeting Baitullah Mehsud. Moreover, Zainuddin has opened two offices in Tank and Dera Ismail Kahn to meet with media representatives.[i]



[i] "Terrorism Monitor." The Jamestown Foundation. July 2, 2009. https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/TM_007_47.pdf.

 

Targets and Tactics

The Zain Group primarily targets Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Qari Zainnudin, the former leader of the Zain Group, exploited propaganda tactics to detract from his competitors’ support bases in Pakistan’s western border region. In November 2008, Zainnudin distributed pamphlets in the North West Frontier Province accusing Baitullah Mehsud of defaming Islam, killing tribal elders, and eliminating militant commanders.[i] He circulated more of these pamphlets in 2009, also promising strict punishment for all those who provided shelter or financial support to Baitullah and his followers.[ii]

 

The Zain Group has cooperated with the Pakistani government. In 2009 there were reports that, the group assisted the Pakistani army in closing off South Waziristan's southern borders in order to enclose TTP fighters.[iii]



[i] “WANA: Five Militants Killed as Vehicle Hits Landmine in Wana.” Dawn. November 28, 2008. https://www.dawn.com/news/332038/wana-five-militants-killed-as-vehicle-h...

[ii] Harnisch, Chris. “Pamphlet Against Baitullah Mehsud Distributed in Suburbs of Dera Ismail Khan,” Khabrain. March 18, 2009. https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/qari-zainuddin-mehsud-assassina....

[iii] Walsh, Declan. "Strange bedfellows: Islamists and army join forces against insurgents." The Guardian. October 21, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/21/good-taliban-pakistan-army....

 



[1] “WANA: Five Militants Killed as Vehicle Hits Landmine in Wana.” Dawn. November 28, 2008. https://www.dawn.com/news/332038/wana-five-militants-killed-as-vehicle-h...

[2] Harnisch, Chris. “Pamphlet Against Baitullah Mehsud Distributed in Suburbs of Dera Ismail Khan,” Khabrain. March 18, 2009. https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/qari-zainuddin-mehsud-assassina....

[3] Walsh, Declan. "Strange bedfellows: Islamists and army join forces against insurgents." The Guardian. October 21, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/21/good-taliban-pakistan-army....

 

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks
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Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing, but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

June 2009: The Zain group was accredited with killing at least thirty members of Baitullah Mehsud’s followers in the districts of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan. There are reports that the Zain Group worked with the Pakistani government and its intelligence agencies to successfully weaken Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) forces in these June attacks. (30 killed, unknown wounded)[i]



[i] Tavernise, Sabrina, and Pir Zubair Shah. “Tough Battle in Stronghold for Pakistan Insurgency.” New York Times. June 16, 2009; Khan, Ismail. “Mehsuds Watch Bid to Isolate Baitullah from Fence.” Dawn. June 16, 2009. https://www.dawn.com/news/959200.

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/Listed
  • Designated/Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/Listed

The Zain Group has not been designated as a terrorist organization by any major national government or international body.

 

Community Relations

The Zain Group has actively spread propaganda material against Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders including Baitullah Mehsud and his successor Hakimullah.  Between 2008 and 2009, the group distributed pamphlets accusing Baitullah Mehsud of defaming Islam, killing tribal elders, and eliminating militant commanders.[i]



[i] “WANA: Five Militants Killed as Vehicle Hits Landmine in Wana.” Dawn. November 28, 2008. https://www.dawn.com/news/332038/wana-five-militants-killed-as-vehicle-h....

 

Relationships with Other Groups

The Zain Group has openly declared its opposition to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in particular to Baitullah Mehsud and his various successors. The Zain Group condemns TTP’s use of terrorism in Pakistan, deeming it un-Islamic. They have since waged a “blood feud” with TTP, primarily combating them in South Waziristan.[i]

In addition, the Zain Group has pledged support to Mullah Omar and Taliban militants fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan; however, there is no evidence that it has directly cooperated with the Taliban.[ii]

 



[i] Roggio, Bill. 2017. "Anti-Baitullah Taliban Groups Merge, Appoint New Leader | FDD's Long War Journal". FDD's Long War Journal. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/07/antibaitullah_taliba.php.

[ii] Yusufzai, Rahimullah. “The Significance of Qari Zain’s Assassination in Pakistan.” Combating Terrorism Center, West Point. July 15, 2009; Hasan , Syed Shoaib. "A very strange Taliban burial." BBC News. June 25, 2009. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8118373.stm.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

According to a spokesperson of the Zain Group, the organization receives "modest" funding from the Pakistani government through a zakat fund.[i] The Pakistani government has officially denied allegations of funding the Zain Group.



[i] Tavernise, Sabrina and Pir Zubair Shah. “Tough Battle in Stronghold for Pakistan Insurgency.” New York Times. June 16, 2009

 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.

Evolving Militant Interactions

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