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Pakistani Taliban confirm number 2 killed in drone US strike

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — The spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban has confirmed the death of their deputy leader in a recent US drone strike in Pakistan's north-western tribal region.

Azam Tariq Mehsud, the spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, says the group's deputy chief, Khalid Mehsud, also known as Commander Sajna, was killed in last Thursday's strike in the border village of Gorwak in North Waziristan, once a stronghold of militants.

He said another commander, Mufti Noor Wali, has now been appointed as the group's deputy chief.

Tariq says Wali enjoys the backing of Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials had earlier reported unconfirmed reports about Sajna's killing in a US strike.

Pakistani officials have been critical of the American drone strikes on the Pakistani soil, arguing that they are a violation of the country's sovereignty. But last week's attack that killed Mr. Sayed did not elicit a strong reaction from Pakistan's Foreign Office.

Sayed had gone into hiding in Khost Province of Afghanistan after the Pakistani Army launched an offensive in 2014 against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan.

After the death of the commander Hakimullah Mehsud in a 2013 American drone attack, Sayed claimed the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban, which consists of several groups. But he then lost out to the current leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who had been responsible for the 2012 attack on Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani education activist. Differences continued to persist between the two militant commanders.

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