DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — A new Islamic militia leader has emerged in Pakistan to openly challenge al Qaida-affiliated warlord Baitullah Mehsud for the first time from within his own tribe, marking the start of a bloody confrontation in the wild Waziristan region that could have profound consequences for both Pakistan and the West.
In his first interview with a Western news organization, Qari Zainuddin told McClatchy this week that he'd wipe out Mehsud and rescue Pakistan from a reign of terror that has pushed the nuclear-armed U.S. ally toward collapse.
Zainuddin charged that Mehsud, who is the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, had betrayed both his Muslim religion and the Mehsud tribe of his native South Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan.
"To fight our own country is wrong," said Zainuddin, in an interview given in a hideout on the edge of South Waziristan, surrounded by masked Kalashnikov-totting followers. "Islam doesn't give permission to fight against a Muslim country. This is where we differ. What we're seeing these days, these bombings in mosques, in markets, in hospitals; these are not allowed in Islam. We don't agree with them."