The Black Night group works under the command of Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman, the top leaders in the Pakistani Taliban, according to a member of the group who spoke to an Associated Press reporter by phone from an undisclosed location.
He said the group would continue to target wealthy Pakistanis, government officials and foreigners from non-Muslim countries for kidnappings. Banks were hit because they charged interest and therefore violated Islamic law, he said.
In Karachi, four bank robberies this year have netted $2.3 million, according to a community police organization. The Taliban are suspected in three of them.
“We are not fighting on that front line against the Pakistani army or NATO forces in Afghanistan, but we are contributing to the jihad through this way,” the militant said on condition that his real name not be used.
Police are not allowed to travel to the tribal-administered areas where the Pakistani Taliban and other militants are based. This status, dating back to British colonial times, means the area has long been attractive to criminals on the run or for those running criminal enterprises.
The robbers who raided the bank in Dera Ismail Khan were smartly dressed and appeared relaxed, striking just after midday. Waving guns, they bundled the employees and anyone on the street into the bathroom, then took $138,000 from the safe, stuffed it into bags and drove off.
Local police Chief Zulfiqar Ali blamed the Black Night brigade for the robbery and subsequent attack on the police station but insisted “morale was high” on the force.
“Even with very few resources, we are prepared to give militants a tit-for-tat response,” he said.
More than 1,200 miles away in Karachi, the Taliban didn’t bring guns when they came knocking at the offices of a wealthy Pashtun property developer, but their intent was clear. The man, who didn’t give his name, said they demanded about $20,000.
“I couldn’t escape this situation. As a last resort, I asked them to decrease the amount they were demanding,” he said. “They didn’t bring any weapons when they came to my office the first time, but they can easily harm me and my business.”
Another wealthy Pashtun related how two men on a motorbike seized his 7-year-old child as he left school. It took 17 days for the kidnappers to contact him with a demand of $140,000.
He said the phone calls came from numbers in the Punjab and large towns in Waziristan and that the kidnappers appeared to know the government agencies with whom he had discussed the case. After four months, they settled for about $80,000.
Mohammed Yusuf, a member of the Pakistani Taliban who met an AP reporter in Karachi, said two groups - the al-Mansoor and al-Mukhtar - handle much of the fundraising for the movement in the city. He said they also arrange for supplies to be sent to Waziristan and look after fighters when they come to Karachi.
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