Pakistan’s Taliban appears in turmoil after reports of a deadly shootout between contenders to replace the shadowy movement’s leader, believed to have been killed in a US drone attack.
Intelligence officials said on Friday that Baitullah Mehsud, who had a US$5 million bounty on his head, was killed in a US drone attack, although the government is still seeking confirmation.
There are unconfirmed reports of a deadly shooting at a meeting of top Taliban commanders in South Waziristan region, which Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said were being investigated.
“We have reports that there was fighting between Wali-ur Rehman and Hakimullah ... I said earlier that one of them is dead. I will not disclose the name. I am seeking verification,” Malik told a private Pakistani TV channel.
The men were reportedly at a meeting of commanders in the tribal region of South Waziristan to choose a possible successor to Mehsud.
Hakimullah Mehsud served as a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud and the warlord’s main spokesman. Wali-ur Rehman was a senior commander in Mehsud’s umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan movement.
But despite the apparent internal turmoil among the Taliban, security analyst Hasan Askari warned the threat was not over and said Pakistani authorities would have to re-establish control in the tribal areas.
Meanwhile, at least 11 people, most of them militants, were killed in shootouts in the restive northwestern town of Bannu and the tribal region of Mohmand near the Afghan border, officials said.
“At least six militants and two local tribesmen including the chief of the local peace committee were killed during an exchange of fire in Mohmand’s Khawazi village late on Saturday,” Ghafoor Khan said.