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Helmand Taliban leader on the run; believed to be in Quetta, Pakistan
Wanted man, Zakir, is believed to be behind surge in violence
Central Asia Online Staff Report
HELMAND, Afghanistan — As the Afghan government continues to regain control of Helmand Province, Taliban fighters and their leaders are on the run.
Among them is Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, also known as Abdul Qayum Zakir, a Taliban military leader who recently renamed himself ‘Mullah’ Abdullah Zakir. Officials say he is a killer who is in charge of Taliban operations in southern Afghanistan.
Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal, told Central Asia Online that when Zakir was released from Afghan custody in 2008, he reconnected with senior Taliban leaders, and was made chief of staff of the Taliban military.
He is believed to be responsible for all Taliban military operations not only in Helmand, but elsewhere. Ahmadi said Zakir’s fight in Helmand is self-serving.
“The Taliban are not struggling for religion in Helmand Province”, he said. “They are fighting for personal gain”. Ahmadi said that in Helmand, the fight is for the profits from poppy cultivation and drug smuggling.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed to Central Asia Online’s Kabul correspondent that Zakir is a senior military commander for southern Afghanistan. But government and coalition forces believe him to be behind the planning of brutal attacks that have killed hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan civilians.
He is considered to be so violent that the U.S. Department of Defense recently announced a US$1 million reward for his capture.
NATO officials believe he is the mastermind behind a surge in roadside bombings in Helmand that began immediately after he was released from Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison in 2008.
Zakir is considered responsible for increasingly sophisticated attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other weapons, targeting soldiers and civilians alike.
A number of sources report that Zakir is believed to be hiding in Quetta, Pakistan. Ahmadi agreed.
“It’s very likely”, he said. “Quetta is the headquarters of the Taliban. They are moving around. So it is nothing new if he is in Quetta or in Afghanistan”.