Peshawar, July 24 : Umar Khalid, a poet-and-journalist-turned-Taleban, has assumed the complete control over the Mohmand Agency after eliminating the chief and deputy chief of the Shah Sahib militant group in a bloody battle last Friday. Now he is considered as most powerful TTP (Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan) leader, only next to Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Faqir.
Umar Khalid, currently in his early 40s, was the Harkatul Mujahideen chief in the Mohmand Agency before becoming a Taliban commander. In his younger days he worked for two different publications.
"He (Umar Khalid) is the strongest and most influential Taliban leader after Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Faqir," the Daily Times quoted the residents of Mohmand Agency as saying.
After a meeting with Khalid, a member of the militant group said that there was now less likelihood that a fact-finding team sent from Baitullah Mehsud would penalise Khalid for his July 18 actions against the Shah Sahib group.
People from the banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyaba had originally led the group. "Any group not showing allegiance to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan will not be tolerated in the Mohmand Agency," Khalid had told reporters in his first press conference after taking over the headquarters of the rival jihadi outfit.
According to his close associates, Umar Khalid is a "born jihadi" who has glorified the fight against 'infidels' through his poetry. "His poetry is all about jihad," they added. Formerly a journalist, Khalid worked for pro-jihad publications 'Zarb-e-Momin' and the daily 'Islam' in the 1990s before he joined the "freedom struggle" of the Kashmiri people against Indian rule of occupied Kashmir. His affiliation with the two publications also earned him membership of the Ghalanai Press Club, local journalists said, adding that this membership was revoked after he became involved in militant activities.
According to his associates, his journey towards extremism began with a journey to Azad Jammu and Kashmir. "He was in Muzaffarabad on personal business when Azad Jammu and Kashmir jihadis contacted him. Since then Khalid's sole concern has been jihad," they told Daily Times by phone.