Reuters reports: One of the Taliban’s most feared commanders, Maulana Fazlullah, carefully briefed two killers from his special hit squad on their next target.
The gunmen weren’t going after any army officer, politician or Western diplomat. Their target was a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who had angered the Taliban by speaking out for “Western”-style girls’ education.
Tuesday’s shooting of Malala Yousufzai was the culmination of years of campaigning that had pitted the fearless, smiling young girl against one of Pakistan’s most ruthless Taliban commanders.
Their story began in 2009, when Fazlullah, known as Radio Mullah for his fiery radio broadcasts, took over Swat Valley, and ordered the closure of girls’ schools, including Yousufzai’s.
Outraged, the then-11-year-old kept a blog for the BBC under a pen name and later launched a campaign for girls’ education. It won her Pakistan’s highest civilian honor and death threats from the Taliban.
Yousufzai was not blind to the dangers. In her hometown of Mingora, Fazlullah’s Taliban fighters dumped bodies near where her family lived.
“I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk,” she wrote in her diary, referring to a nearby roundabout.
A military offensive pushed Fazlullah out of Swat in 2009, but his men simply melted away across the border to Afghanistan. Earlier this year, they kidnapped and beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in one of several cross border raids.
Yousufzai continued speaking out despite the danger. As her fame grew, Fazlullah tried everything he could to silence her. The Taliban published death threats in the newspapers and slipped them under her door. But she ignored them.
The Taliban say that’s why they sent assassins, despite a tribal code forbidding the killing of women.
“We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop (speaking against us),” said Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman of Swat Taliban now based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
He said the Taliban held a meeting a few months ago at which they unanimously agreed to kill her. The task was then given to military commanders to carry out.
The militia has a force of around 100 men specialized in targeted killing, fighters said. They chose two men, aged between 20-30, who were locals from Swat Valley.
The gunmen had proved their worth in previous assassinations, killing an opposition politician and attacking a leading hotelier for “obscenity” in promoting tourism.
Their trademark is to kill by shots to the head.
Such hits, although dangerous, are also a badge of honor among the Taliban. The fighters who carry them out often receive personal calls of congratulations from senior leaders and may also get cash or guns.
Now it was Yousufzai’s turn. [Continue reading…]