Pakistan's 'most hated' man to lead Taliban
ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani Taliban appointed as its new chief on Thursday a hard-line commander responsible for some of the country's worst violence, including the recent killing of a Pakistani general and the attempted assassination of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai last year.
After conferring for six days in North Waziristan, 17 members of the group's governing council selected Maulana Fazlullah as the terrorist group's operational and tactical leader, Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a phone interview. Fazlullah replaces Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed by a U.S. drone a week ago in an attack that brought vows of retribution and is complicating relations between America and Pakistan.
In choosing a figure whom some analysts describe as Pakistan's most feared man, Shahid said the Taliban's goal was to signal that its insurgency against the government will continue, despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's effort to engage the group in peace talks.
Fazlullah, who is thought to be living in eastern Afghanistan, was the Taliban commander in Pakistan's scenic Swat Valley from 2007 to 2009, when the group effectively controlled the area.
It attempted to impose harsh sharia law on residents, and those who resisted it were whipped, beaten, tortured or executed.
Fazlullah is wanted on 104 criminal charges in Swat but has evaded Pakistani security officials, NATO troops in Afghanistan and U.S. intelligence officials, despite several false reports over the years of his death in a drone strike.
Last year, Fazlullah ordered the execution of Malala, 15 at the time, because she spoke out against Taliban attempts to prevent girls from going to school. Malala, who was shot in the head on her school bus, recovered after being airlifted to England for treatment.
In early October, Fazlullah asserted responsibility in a video for killing a two-star Pakistani army general and two other military officials in a roadside bombing near the Afghanistan border. The video infuriated Pakistani military leaders, many of whom remember Fazlullah from his fierce resistance to the 2009 military campaign to regain control of the Swat Valley.
Neither Pakistan's government nor its powerful military commented on Fazlullah's selection, but analysts say the development severely undermines Sharif's efforts to hold peace talks.
Those plans have been on hold since last Friday's killing of Mehsud, who was wanted by the United States for a 2009 assault on a CIA base, which killed seven Americans, and a 2010 plot to bomb Times Square in New York.
“From the Pakistani establishment point of view, Fazlullah is a very dangerous guy,” said Saifullah Mehsud of the Islamabad-based FATA Research Center, which investigates terrorism organizations. “Through his acceptance of the killing of the army general and his cross-border attacks, all of these things establish him as the most hated guy as far as the military is concerned.”
Fazlullah, thought to be in his late 30s, is known as “Mullah Radio” because he is frequently spotted with a transmitter used to relay music and messages. Fazlullah was raised near Mingora in the Swat Valley and became an avid follower of Sufi Mohammad, the detained founder of the radical Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law group, later marrying his daughter.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reports include ‘aliens’ as origin of Russian holes
- Shelling of UN school kills 15 as Gaza war rages
- Ebola claims hero doctor in Sierra Leone
- Gaza’s only power plant taken out; utility official says attack ‘catastrophic’ for 1.8 million
- Karzai’s kin killed in suicide bombing
- Real-life ‘Ratatouille’ invade garden of Louvre
- Iraq’s split into 3 states becomes a reality
- Israeli leader signals no quick end to Gaza conflict
- PLO offers truce as at least 100 killed in Gaza
- ‘Clear-cut’ path made to jetliner
- Obama, European leaders agree to new Russia sanctions