Khan Said 'named as new Pakistani Taliban leader'
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Senior members of the Pakistani Taliban on Saturday picked the group's No. 2 commander, Khan Said, to be their new leader following the death of their former chief (pictured) in a US drone attack the day before.
Militants from the Pakistani Taliban on Saturday voted to install the group's No. 2 commander as their new leader after the former chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a US drone strike the day before, security sources and militant commanders said.
The new head, Khan Said - who has been the leader in the South Waziristan tribal area - is believed to have masterminded an attack on a Pakistani jail which saw nearly 400 prisoners freed as well as a raid on a Pakistani airbase, both in 2012.
The Taliban’s leadership committee had gathered for the vote at an undisclosed location in the North Waziristan tribal area, the same region where a US drone strike killed the group’s leader on Friday.
Drones were still flying over North Waziristan Saturday. Witnesses in the towns of Mir Ali and Miran Shah reported that Mehsud’s supporters were firing at them in anger.
Mehsud was killed Friday in a village outside Miran Shah when multiple missiles slammed into a compound just after a vehicle carrying the militant commander arrived.
Four other suspected militants were killed including Mehsud’s cousin, uncle and one of his guards. They identity of the fourth victim is not yet known.
Mehsud was on the US most-wanted terrorist lists with a $5 million bounty. He’s believed to have been behind a deadly suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan, a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square and brazen assaults in Pakistan that killed thousands of civilians and members of security forces.
His death will likely complicate efforts by the Pakistani government to negotiate a peace deal with the militants. After the group’s number two was killed in a drone strike in May, the Tehreek-e-Taliban as it is formally called, fiercely rejected any idea of peace talks and accused the government of cooperating with the U.S. in the drone strikes.
In recent weeks the TTP appeared to soften its position but had still made multiple demands for preconditions to any negotiating, including the end of drone strikes in the tribal areas.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)