The Pakistani Taliban yesterday confirmed that their deputy leader was killed in a suspected US drone strike last week and said they had appointed a new deputy in his place.
A pair of suspected US missile strikes killed the militant leader, Khalid Mehsud, also known by his alias Sajna, on Thursday last week in Afghanistan's Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan, Pakistani security officials said.
But there were conflicting accounts of the drone attack from Pakistani intelligence officials and militant sources.
A spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting to bring down the Pakistani state, told Reuters the drone strike was in the North Waziristan region, on the Pakistani side of the border.
"We confirm that deputy head of the TTP Khalid Mehsud died in a drone strike," said the spokesman, Mohammad Khurasani.
He said Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah appointed a commander called Mufti Noor Wali Wali to replace their dead deputy.
Wali, like his predecessor, would lead militants in South Waziristan, a rugged mountainous region on the Afghan border which has long been home to Pakistani, Afghan and al Qaeda-linked foreign militants.
Militant sources said Wali, known by the nickname Ghar Starga, is a ruthless leader with experience working in Pakistani urban areas including the southern city of Karachi.