Ex-spokesman for Pakistan Taliban escapes

A leading member of the Pakistan Taliban has escaped custody more than two years after surrendering to authorities, said a senior security official.

The confirmation comes days after Ehsanullah Ehsan – the former spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – released an audio message claiming he had escaped detention and was now in Turkey.

A senior security source told AFP Ehsan was “one of our major assets in identifying and later tracking down militants.”

The source was unable to confirm claims that Ehsan was in Turkey, or provide details of how he escaped.

Ehsan was infamous for issuing chilling claims following TTP attacks and has been linked to some of the country’s most bloody attacks – including the bombing at a park in Lahore during Easter 2016, and the targeting of education activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

Ehsan surrendered to authorities in 2017 and later gave high-profile interviews on Pakistani television, angering many in the country who believed he was being pampered by authorities after years of helping lead the bloody insurgency.

Pakistani security officials argued, however, that he had supplied valuable intelligence in the fight against militants.

Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency for over a decade, with thousands of civilians and security personnel dying in extremist attacks, especially after the TTP began their campaign of violence in 2007.

Overall levels of extremist-linked violence have dropped dramatically over the last year, with 2019 seeing the fewest deaths since the TTP was was formed in 2007.

Analysts have credited the fall to military offensives against the Taliban in the tribal areas of North Waziristan and Khyber where they were headquartered, as well as operations in the country’s largest city of Karachi.

In 2018, the TTP was further degraded after a US strike in Afghanistan killed their leader, Maulana Fazlullah.