Pakistani Taliban chose on Saturday Khan Said Mehsud alias Sajna as its new leader a day after its former leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan.
The consultative Shura council of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was held at an undisclosed location and Sajna was elected after winning a majority of 43 votes out of 60, Pakistani media reported, quoting sources close to the militant group.
But the election of Sajna, who leads Taliban in South Waziristan, has not been confirmed by TTP’s other splinter groups and an official decision would be announced in the coming days, militants sources added.
Sajna reportedly lacks substantial educational and religious credentials, but is he is known to be a hardened warrior among the Taliban with significant experience in fighting in the neighboring Afghanistan.
“Sajna has no basic education, conventional or religious, but he is battle-hardened and has experience of fighting in Afghanistan,” the Dawn newspaper quoted an official as saying.
Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Taliban in Orakzai Agency, one of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, had emerged as a possible successor for Mehsud during consultations, according to Taliban sources.
The powerful leader of the Swat Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, based in the Afghanistan’s Nuristan province was also believed to be a powerful runner. Fazlullah reportedly objected to Sajna as the new TTP supremo.
Meanwhile, the group’s leader in Mohmand tribal area Omar Khalid Khurasani was also believed to be a possible choice.
The death of Mehsud, a young militant in his 30s known for attacking a CIA base in Afghanistan and carrying out several attacks against NATO’s transport lines, is seen as major blow to the Taliban.
Azam Tariq, the Pakistani Taliban spokesman in the South Waziristan tribal area, provided the first official confirmation of Mehsud’s death.
“We are proud of the martyrdom of Hakimullah Mehsud,” Tariq told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. “We will continue our activities.”
The Pakistani Taliban is an umbrella organization with different branches. It has fought the Pakistani government since 2007, seeking to overthrow the government and establish an Islamist state. It is also seeking to end Pakistan’s alliance with the United States.
Mehsud was buried on Saturday along with four other militants killed in the same drone strike that targeted him on Friday. The funeral took place in an undisclosed location.
The Pakistani interior minister accused on Saturday the United States of “scuttling” efforts towards peace talks with the Taliban by killing the militants' leader in a drone strike.
Chaudhry Nisar said "every aspect" of Pakistan's cooperation with Washington would be reviewed following Friday's drone attack that killed Mehsud in the country’s tribal northwest.