Islamabad: Militant commander Maulvi Faqir
Muhammad on Wednesday declared himself as the head of the Pakistani Taliban, saying he was temporarily replacing Baitullah Mehsud, whom Washington and Islamabad have said was almost certainly killed in a drone attack, as the latter is "seriously ill".
Maulvi Faqir, the commander of Taliban fighters in Bajaur
tribal region bordering Afghanistan, contacted journalists on
phone and declared himself as the new chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
He denied reports of Mehsud`s death, saying he is "alive
but seriously ill" and that is why he had gone into hiding. He
claimed that there would be no impact on the Taliban movement
even if Mehsud is martyred.
Maulvi Faqir said no meeting of the 42-member Taliban
council known as a shura has yet been convened to elect a new
head and reports about the meeting were baseless. He also said
commanders Wali-ur-Rehman and Hakimullah Mehsud had no right
to elect a new Taliban chief without consulting all militant
US and Pakistani officials have said they are certain
that Mehsud was killed with his second wife and several
bodyguards during a Predator drone attack in South Waziristan
on August 5. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said
authorities are gathering evidence to confirm his death.
Several Taliban commanders and spokesmen have denied
reports of Mehsud`s death but have not provided any evidence
that he is still alive.
Maulvi Faqir, who was appointed deputy chief of
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan when it was formed in December 2007,
also named Swat-based Muslim Khan as the new spokesman for the
He said Khan would replace Maulvi Omar, who was arrested
by security forces in Mohmand tribal region on Monday.
Pakistani officials who have questioned Maulvi Omar have
said he too has confirmed Mehsud`s death in a drone attack.
Though Maulvi Omar was not a military commander, he is
believed to have considerable information on the Taliban`s
organisation and strategy as he was a close aide of Mehsud.
Maulvi Faqir claimed authorities had "forcibly
extracted" a statement from Maulvi Omar regarding Mehsud`s