BAJAUR (Taleban controlled)
Bajaur is one of those tribal areas where the Taleban established themselves early on.
Analysts have long suspected the region to be the hiding place of Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al-Qaeda leaders. It is an area where suspected US drones launched their earliest missile strikes.
Maulvi Faqir Mohammad is the chief commander of the Taleban in Bajaur and is said to lead a force of nearly 10,000 armed militants. A year-long military operation ended in Bajaur early this year but a peace agreement has broken down and the Taleban are back in control in most areas outside the regional capital, Khar.
Maulvi Omar, spokesman for the militant alliance Tehrik Taleban Pakistan (TTP), comes from Bajaur. Taleban camps are reported at various places in Bajaur, such as Salarzai and Dasht.
BANNU (Taleban presence)
Bannu is a so-called “settled” (rather than “tribal”) area in North West Frontier Province, which borders troubled Waziristan. The district has witnessed a number of attacks on security forces. Civilians have also been killed.
But locals do not have strong tribal affiliations with the Taleban, and the local Taleban have not been successful in building support for their activies in Bannu.
BUNER (Taleban controlled)
Buner is only 100km (65 miles) from the capital, Islamabad. The military launched an operation against the militants in April after the so-called Swat Taleban seized control of Buner.
The district is popular with Pashtuns visiting the tomb of a Sufi saint, but traditional religious freedoms have been eroded. Militants from Swat tried to enter Buner in 2008 but were thwarted by locals. An armed clash between the two sides at Shilabandi left six Taleban dead, and the Taleban retreated to their bases in Swat. Local resistance did not go unpunished, however, as nearly 50 people were later killed by the militants.
After Sharia law was introduced in Swat, the Taleban again decided to target Buner as part of efforts to expand their area of influence. After negotiations with locals, the Taleban were permitted to operate in the district. Since then all barber shops and music stores have closed down.
D.I. KHAN (Taleban presence)
Traditionally famous for its flowers and sweets, Dera Ismail Khan (or D.I. Khan) has not escaped the increase in Taleban activity seen elsewhere in North West Frontier Province.
Two groups of militants are active in D.I. Khan, one of them involved in sectarian attacks, the other in attacks on security forces. Taleban active in neighbouring Waziristan have claimed responsibility for almost all the attacks on security personnel.
After troops stepped up an anti-Taleban drive in Waziristan in 2008, large numbers of tribal families settled in D.I. Khan. Some government officials fear that militants might also have left Waziristan and settled in D.I. Khan.
Local police say 84 people, many of them security personnel, were killed and more than 100 injured in various violent incidents during 2008.
Most analysts agree there will be no end to violence in D.I. Khan until peace is restored in neighbouring tribal areas and concerted action is taken to stop the sectarian attacks.
HANGU (Taleban presence)
Hangu, neighbouring Orakzai, is believed to be under the control of Hakimullah Mehsud, the right-hand man of Pakistan Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Those parts of Hangu that border Orakzai are dominated by the Taleban.
The district also shares borders with two other Taleban strongholds, Kurram and Waziristan. Most analysts argue that if government fails to take steps to check the increasing influence of the Taleban in Hangu, the radical elements now confined to its border areas could soon expand their activities to other areas of district.
Sectarian tension between Shias and Sunnis is yet another fault line, which deepened after a 2006 suicide attack on a Shia procession in Hangu.
KHYBER (Taleban presence)
Of the tribal areas of the North West Frontier, Khyber agency is the only one where different religious organisations operate. There are three known religious groups – Lashkar-i-Islam (Army of Islam) headed by Mangal Bagh, Ansar-i-Islam (Companions of Islam) headed by Qazi Mehboobul Haq and Amar Bil Maroof (Organisation for Virtues) headed by Niaz Gul.
The Taleban presence in Khyber is fairly recent and most analysts link it to Nato’s use of the main road through the Khyber pass to Afghanistan. The Taleban are believed to have moved into the area to attack convoys carrying supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan. There has been a spate of such attacks. The Taleban are now in almost total control of two of the three sub-divisions of Khyber agency, including Jamrod and Bara.
KOHAT (Taleban presence)
Kohat is only a stone’s throw from the semi tribal district of Adamkhel.
The Taleban claim to have carried out attacks targeting security forces in the district. In a recent operation security forces say 35 militants were killed. As in Mardan and other districts in North West Frontier Province, the Taleban in Kohat have mostly confined their activities to opposing music and barber shops.
KURRAM (Taleban presence)
Kurram agency, like neighbouring North Waziristan, is also divided into three administrative areas or sub-divisions – Upper, Central and Lower Kurram.
The Taleban (who are Sunni Muslims) do not have a significant presence in Upper Kurram as the local population are Shias. Shias are also found in one town in Lower Kurram, Alizai. Otherwise, the Taleban are present almost everywhere else in Kurram where the Sunni population dominates.
Foreign Taleban fighters are believed to have moved into Kurram and adjoining Orakzai agencies since 2008 when missile attacks by suspected US military drones became more frequent in north-west Pakistan.
LAKKI MARWAT (Taleban presence)
Lakki Marwat is a district near North Waziristan where local tribes are very strong. There have been a number of clashes between militants and security forces in the area.
LOWER DIR (Taleban controlled)
There have been reports since late 2007 that the Taleban have found many hideouts in Lower Dir. This was confirmed in April when the army acknowledged that the Taleban had dug themselves in on the mountain tops. The area known as Maidan, which is also the home town of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who brokered the now-defunct Swat “peace deal”, has become a Taleban hotspot in the district.
The army has twice claimed to have pushed the Taleban out of Lower Dir and taken control. But many people fear the militants may use Lower Dir to expand into nearby Upper Dir.
MALAKAND (Taleban presence)
Malakand is essentially a mountain pass between Mardan and Swat. Historically the district is known for a number of battles between local tribes and British soldiers in the last years of the 19th Century.
Before extremism began surfacing in Swat, the local administration had been facing law and order problems in Malakand. At the time it mostly concerned criminal activities including kidnap for ransom. In January 2009 members of an international charity were taken hostage. But the biggest Taleban attack in Malakand was carried out apparently to avenge a US missile strike at Damadola. Forty paramilitary recruits were killed in the attack on a training centre at Dargai.
Despite the fact that the Taleban have not maintained a dominant presence in Malakand, the district seems susceptible to their influence and analysts argue that if they so choose the Taleban could move into thearea in a big way.
MARDAN (Taleban presence)
Mardan, about 60km (37 miles) north-east of Peshawar, is one of the most densely populated districts of North West Frontier Province and a thriving centre for trade.
In the past year the Taleban have boosted their presence in Mardan and reports of skirmishes with paramilitary security forces have become more frequent. Although there are not many of them in Mardan, the Taleban have proved able to disrupt the day-to-day administration of the district.
Early signs of extremism in Mardan can be traced back to attacks on music shops, and more recently, shops providing cable services for different TV channels have been targeted. In another incident an NGO office was also attacked. Responsibility for most of these attacks was reportedly accepted by a militant who claimed to be the local head of the Tehrik Taleban Pakistan alliance.
Mardan also made headlines in the international media when Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a high profile al-Qaeda suspect was arrested there in 2005.
MOHMAND (Taleban presence)
The Taleban are widely reported to be present in all three sub-divisions of Mohmand agency. The militants here are under the command of Omar Khalid who belongs to the Safi tribe of Pashtuns. He and about 5,000 militants have been resisting attempts by the security forces to clear them from the southern and south-eastern parts of Mohmand in order to reduce pressure on Peshawar and elsewhere.
Taleban fighters of Arab and Uzbek origin are also reported to be present in Mohmand.
NORTH WAZIRISTAN (Taleban controlled)
North Waziristan, home to the Wazir and Dawar tribes, is administratively divided into three sub-divisions called Miranshah, Mir Ali and Razmak. The Wazirs make up 75% of the local population, while the remainder belong to the Dawar tribe.
The Taleban are in control of all three sub-divisions of North Waziristan. They mount regular daily patrols of town centres and hold informal summary courts, adjudicate in disputes and deliver verdicts from offices established in almost every part of the agency.
North Waziristan is controlled by Taleban commander Gul Bahadur, but Baitullah Mehsud is also reported to be in command of at least three Taleban camps. Two of these are located in Miranshah while the third is in Razmak. As in South Waziristan, there is a considerable proportion of Taleban in North Waziristan who are referred to as “Punjabi Taleban”.
ORAKZAI (Taleban controlled)
Orakzai agency is divided into two administrative districts.
The Taleban do not have a significant presence in Lower Orakzai as most locals belong to an anti-Taleban Shia sect. But, mountainous Upper Orakzai is dominated by Sunnis and has many Taleban and sympathisers.
Most Taleban in Orakzai belong to the Mamuzai, Alikhel, Akhel and Ferozkhel tribes. The local population seems supportive of the Taleban more for sectarian reasons than because of the militants’ activities.
The Taleban appointed Hakimullah Mehsud as commander for Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber agencies. He is a cousin of Qari Hussain, the mastermind behind the training of the suicide bombers used by the Taleban.
PESHAWAR (Taleban presence)
The capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Peshawar has become the front line city in the so-called “war on terror” in Pakistan. Bombings and suicide attacks coupled with kidnap for ransom have become commonplace. The city is surrounded by militants on three sides. Mardan and Charsadda to the north, Mohmand and Khyber agencies to the west and Darra Adamkhel to the south have all become battle grounds.
Disrupting Nato plans in Afghanistan has been the key Taleban target in Peshawar – at least 400 vehicles carrying supplies for Nato forces have been destroyed. The Taleban say they will keep on attacking trucks destined for Nato forces until the US stops drone attacks in the region.
SHANGLA (Taleban controlled)
Shangla is said to be under the partial control of the Taleban. Recent reports speak of militants taking control of emerald mines here and it is rumoured that an army operation will soon be launched.
The Taleban captured Shangla Top, a strategic point, about 18 months ago and since then have taken control of police stations in the district. Policemen had no option but to run for their lives. Other government buildings in Shangla have since been in and out of Taleban control – and some analysts believe the militants could retake them if they want.
SOUTH WAZIRISTAN (Taleban controlled)
South Waziristan is the largest tribal district or agency – two big Pashtun tribes, the Mehsud and the Wazir, dominate. The Wazirs are historically settled on either side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, while the Mehsuds are confined to South Waziristan.
It is widely believed the Pakistani government has lost control of almost all of South Waziristan – for some time the army has been restricted to Zerinoor camp in the agency’s main town, Wana.
The army had to evacuate the Mehsud-dominated area of South Waziristan in 2008 when around 300 troops were taken hostage. The army is understood to lack a secure supply line that could guarantee a smoother flow of men and ammunition into this area.
Parts of South Waziristan under the direct influence of top Pakistan Taleban militant leader Baitullah Mehsud are reported to contain as many as seven camps where suicide bombers are trained. These camps or training centres are believed to have been established at Makeen, Shaktoi, Kanigaram, Dela, Kot Kai, Shawwal and Badar.
In addition, another Taleban leader Mullah Nazir is also believed to be running two separate training centres in South Waziristan at Shikai and Baghar. Some of his followers are also known to be based in Balochistan province, which almost borders Wana.
SWABI (Taleban presence)
Swabi is considered to be the heartland of the secular Pashtun political party, the Awami National Party (ANP). Mainly for this reason, people in Swabi have not welcomed the Taleban. But there have been recent incidents of graffiti in Swabi boasting local support for the Taleban’s drive for their version of Sharia law and Islamic “virtues”.
Swabi was in the news in the early 1990s when an operative of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency emerged as a key link between the army and the Taleban.
SWAT (Taleban controlled)
Known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, the former princely state of Swat had been popular with tourists for decades. It is now under almost total Taleban control.
The militants have targeted the security forces, the police, secular politicians and government-run schools.
By early April 2009, Sharia law had been imposed as part of a deal between the authorities and the local Taleban. However, the militants failed to disarm completely in line with the accord and their fighters spread to neighbouring districts, prompting international concern. An army offensive was launched in Swat in early May.
The local Taleban, under their leader Maulana Fuzlullah, have extended their control throughout Swat, especially in areas of policing and its judicial system.
Maulana Fazlullah is the son-in-law of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who led an insurgency in the 1990s. Sufi Mohammad brokered the failed peace deal in Swat.
There are a number of pockets in and around Swat where the Taleban are known to have hidden when in danger or as a tactic when pushed back by the military. Such safe havens could prove useful to them if political pressure mounts against them in Swat. The militants could melt away into the north of the district where they are in even fuller control.
TANK (Taleban presence)
Baitullah Mehsud’s Taleban fighters from South Waziristan first started making incursions into the nearby city of Tank in 2005. Music stores, barbers’ shops and police stations were their primary targets. That situation still remains, with a slight difference. Taleban groups composed of Bhittani tribesmen have been confronting Mehsud loyalists in the region. The Bhittani is the native tribe of Tank district and its largest, but is in a minority in the city of Tank, the administrative centre, where the Mehsuds dominate.
It is thought the Bhittani Taleban are supported by the government. Nevertheless, the writ of the government runs thin in Tank, where fully armed members of rival groups roam the streets freely and run offices in different parts of the city. The police initially offered resistance, but have now downgraded their mandate to one of self-preservation. They stay inside heavily-barricaded police stations. The civil administration is almost completely paralysed.
UPPER DIR (Taleban presence)
Recent reports suggest Upper Dir has started showing some signs of increasing religious radicalisation, but local extremists claim to have no link with the Taleban and do not call themselves Taleban. Instead they are known to be involved in criminal activities, which does not fit with typical Taleban activity.
One notable incident of militancy in Upper Dir in February saw a paramilitary post captured. Militants refused to abandon it despite repeated requests from a local jirga (tribal council). In April five policemen were killed by unknown attackers.
It is thought however the Taleban could gather support from Upper Dir if they wanted. Radical cleric Sufi Mohammad’s TNSM organisation has established offices in Upper Dir and some locals sympathise with the movement.