Islamabad: Dreaded Islamic State militant group has appointed a breakaway Taliban commander as its chief in Khurasan, a historic name used by militants for an area covering Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India.
In a video posted online, Islamic State (IS) commander Abu Muhammad Al-Adni confirmed the name of former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesperson Hafiz Saeed Khan as the Amir (chief) of the Khurasan, potentially extending the group's influence into South Asia and challenging al-Qaeda leadership.
Saeed, 42, appeared in a video ten days ago to announce his defection from Taliban. He belongs to Orakzai Agency and has served as head of the Taliban Orakzai tribal region.
Tehreek-e-Taliban is an umbrella movement linked to al-Qaeda headed by Egyptian militant Aiyman al-Zawahiri. Several former al-Qaeda and TTP militants have abandoned their outfits to join the dreaded terrorist group IS.
Former TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid, Kurram Agency chief Daulat Khan, Khyber Agency chief Fateh Gul Zaman, Peshawar chief Mufti Hassan and Hangu chief Khalid Mansoor have also joined IS.
Pakistan last year saw a sustained campaign by the group but Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan denied the presence of the militant outfit in the country.
The announcement could threaten the supremacy of al-Qaeda in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan where its chief Zawahiri and Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar are believed to be hiding.
ISIS or IS is an al-Qaeda splinter group and it has seized hundreds of square miles in Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic Caliphate.
Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from the group, chiding it for its lack of teamwork in its aggressive, brutal expansion.