Pakistan’s Taliban have confirmed the death of their former leader Mullah Fazlullah and appointed a Taliban cleric and scholar in his place.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) announced the death of Fazlullah more than a week after he was killed in a US drone strike alongside four followers in eastern Afghanistan.
Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud was appointed his successor after deliberation within a movement which is considered fractured and faded after being pushed over the border into Afghanistan by Pakistan’s military.
Fazlullah was notorious for ordering the failed assassination of schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai and an attack on an army school in Peshawar that killed more than 150. Miss Yousafzai survived her shooting and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Fazlullah’s replacement returns control of the TTP to South Waziristan’s Mehsud tribe.
Mehsud last year wrote a 700-page history of his tribe’s militants in recent years.
It disclosed he had been the Taliban’s commander in the port city of Karachi from 2013 and revealed the Taliban’s role in kidnapping and extortion rackets in Karachi as the movement tried to raise money.
The book also claimed the TTP had killed Benazir Bhutto in a 2007 bombing at an election rally.
Yet analysts say the TTP has now become fractured by tribal disputes and has little central control.
“Noor Wali Mehsud is more radical in his strategy and he will strengthen the TTP group,” a commander from Paktia told The Telegraph.
“Mr Mehsud is well organised, educated and will use his wisdom and experience to act against the enemies in both Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the commander claimed.
Rahimullah Yousafzai, an expert on Taliban, said Fazlullah, from Swat Valley, had been considered a weak leader and the new appointments put control back with militants from South Waziristan.
“Noor Wali Mehsud will be a challenging leader, both the appointments of chief and vice chief are from Waziristan and the group will come up with more power”.
Mehsud’s book also revealed that he had spent time fighting with the Afghan Taliban before training in seminaries in Karachi and Faisalabad.