London: Taliban guerrillas are taking advantage of the large-scale misery caused by the devastating floods in Pakistan by attempting to enlist 50,000 new fighters -- in return for food and medicine.
The Taliban is eyeing the floods as an opportunity to begin their biggest recruiting drive in a decade, officials told The Sun.
Thousands of guerrillas are heading out to flood-ravaged areas to 'help' starving victims.
Their agenda is clear. For providing food and medicine, they demand that men pledge to take up their cause. This could lead to a significant upswing in Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and in adjoining Afghanistan.
The people have been hit by the country's worst floods that killed about 1,600 people and affected more than 20 million over the past one month.
The media report pointed out that activists of the Al Qaeda supported Al Rehmat Trust and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) were behind the campaign to recruit new fighters. Experts have described it as 'the Talibanisation of the flood'.
A Pakistan intelligence official said there were reports that the Taliban had set a target to recruit 50,000 new guerrillas.
The source said: 'This is disastrous for Pakistan and the war against terrorism.'
A team from the daily Monday visited the Swat Valley in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
'The Taliban are bringing us rice. We are hungry. People here have simple lives and are easily influenced,' Abdul Jabbar, 50, whose home was destroyed in Mingora town, was quoted as saying.
'They have short memories and don't remember the blood spilled when the Taliban were more active here,' he noted.
Another flood affected victim, Baqhat Khan said: 'We do not want our young being groomed for suicide missions in return for food for their starving families.'
Mohammed Anwar, a soldier, said that the Taliban were using the floods to 'gather strength and regroup'.
'We are stretched to the limits. The government has pulled thousands of soldiers away from Swat to help in relief across Pakistan.
'So the Taliban have returned with bags of money. It was a war we were winning - and because of the flood we are losing it again.'
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said more aid was needed to stop terrorists from becoming heroes.
He said: 'There's huge need. Desperation gives birth to terrorism.'