Zee Media Bureau
Islamabad: After the funeral of Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed by a US drone on Friday, the Pakistani Taliban first announced then deferred the appointment of Khan Said Mehsud alias Sajna as their new chief after several militant commanders opposed the move.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) named Shehryar Mehsud as the caretaker chief and its Shura or council will meet again in the next few days to decide on a new leader, Taliban sources said.
The sources said the Shura had initially agreed on Sajna`s name during a meeting in South Waziristan but later withheld the decision due to opposition from commanders belonging to the Nuristan Shura.
Earlier it was reported that all 43 members of the Shura attending the meeting voted in favour of Sajna, but the election was not confirmed by factions of the militant grouping.
Sajna, 36, is believed to have been involved in an attack on a naval base in Karachi and is credited with masterminding a 2012 jailbreak in which the Taliban freed nearly 400 inmates in the northwestern city of Bannu.
"Sajna has no basic education, conventional or religious, but he is battle-hardened and has experience of fighting in Afghanistan," an official had said earlier.
Sajna was heading the South Waziristan Taliban.
The other three contenders for the post are Umar Khalid Khurasani, Mullah Fazlullah and Ghalib Mehsud.
Hakimullah Mehsud killed, buried
In what could prove to be a major achievement in the war waged by the United States of America against terrorism, a US drone strike killed the head of the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan on Friday.
One of the most wanted men, Mehsud, believed to be in his mid-30s, had a USD 5 million US bounty on his head.
"We confirm with great sorrow that our esteemed leader was martyred in a drone attack," a senior Taliban commander said.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani Taliban fighter said on Saturday that Mehsud`s body was "damaged but recognisable" after a US drone strike hit his vehicle.
Mehsud, his uncle, driver and other aides who fell prey to the US drone attacks were buried at different places in the North Waziristan this morning, Geo News reported.
Taliban vow revenge, Pakistan security heightened
Enraged at the killing of its top leader, the Pakistani Taliban has vowed to take "unprecedented" revenge for the attack in which the militant group alleges the Pakistani government was also involved.
"Our revenge will be unprecedented," Abu Omar, a Taliban commander in North Waziristan, was quoted as saying by the NYT report.
Omar said he considered the Pakistani government was also "fully complicit" in the drone strike.
"We know our enemy very well," he said.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up across Pakistan in wake of Hakimullah`s killing.
"All precautions have been taken," Interior Ministry Spokesperson Omar Hameed Khan told a news agency.
The drones fired four missiles at a compound in Danda Darpa Khel, a village about 5 km (3 miles) from the regional capital of Miranshah, sources said. Mehsud had been attending a gathering of 25 Taliban leaders to discuss the government`s offer of talks, reports said.
Mehsud has been reported killed several times before only to emerge alive later. He took over as leader of the Pakistani Taliban in 2009 after its two previous leaders were killed in drone strikes.
The Pakistan Taliban had claimed responsibility for the failed bomb plot at New York`s Times Square in 2010, and that Mehsud was wanted in connection with the killing of seven CIA employees in Afghanistan in 2009.
The killing of Mehsud was the latest setback for the Pakistani Taliban, a group aligned with its Afghan namesakes and which has staged attacks against Pakistani armed forces and civilians in its fight to topple the government.
The government never clarified which factions of the Taliban it was willing to talk to or whether it would comply with the Taliban`s demands to release its prisoners and withdraw the Army from Taliban strongholds in Pakistan`s tribal areas.
The government, which officially condemns US drone strikes, issued its usual statement denouncing the attack, but did not comment on reports of Mehsud`s death.
Mehsud’s death to complicate US-Pakistan ties?
The strike is a major blow to Pakistan’s efforts to organise peace talks between the Taliban and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who won a landslide election victory in May by promising to bring peace to the country.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan issued a statement accusing the United States of carrying out “a conspiracy to sabotage the peace talks”.
Pakistan had informed the United States and Britain that peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban were imminent, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA and White House official with extensive experience in the region.
"So the drone strike is very awkward and difficult for Sharif. Conspiracy theories in Pakistan will assume he agrees to the strike even as he proposed peace talks with Mehsud," Riedel said via e-mail. "Another setback for US-Pakistan relations ironically."
Know more about Hakimullah Mehsud
Mehsud was brought into the insurgency by his cousin Qari Hussain, who was the Taliban`s top trainer for suicide bombers until he was killed in a drone strike.
He lacked formal education or religious training, but Mehsud was a popular figure known for his jokes and interest in modern technology, said a news agency’s journalist who had met him.
He was the driver for the former head of the Pakistani Taliban, and then rose through the ranks to become the movement`s spokesman, although he was known for his emotional outbursts during conversations.
Mehsud took over the Pakistani Taliban in August 2009 after a drone strike killed the previous leader, his mentor.
Mehsud had two wives and moved frequently because of his fear of US drone strikes.
In recent months, analysts say rivalries with other Taliban commanders over revenues from extortion and kidnapping had sharpened, rising tension within the fragmented movement.
The United States offered USD 5 million for Mehsud`s capture after he appeared in a farewell video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan in 2009.
(With Agency inputs)