New Pakistani Taliban chief returns to lead group

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2013 2:55 PM

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The new leader of the Pakistani Taliban has returned to the country from Afghanistan to lead the militant group a month after the former chief was killed in a U.S. drone strike, Pakistani intelligence officials said Tuesday.

Mullah Fazlullah arrived in Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border several days ago, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.

Fazlullah was appointed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban after the former chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Nov. 1 in the North Waziristan tribal area.

Fazlullah was the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest Swat Valley and fled to Afghanistan after the army launched an offensive there in 2009. He is known as a particularly ruthless militant who planned the attempted assassination of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai.

The Pakistani Taliban have killed thousands of people in an attempt to impose Islamic law in Pakistan and end the government's support for the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan. A government attempt to engage the militants in peace talks was torpedoed by the drone strike that killed Mehsud, although many analysts doubted it had much hope of succeeding.

Also Tuesday, a series of targeted killings in the southern port city of Karachi left nine people dead, said senior police officer Amir Farooqi. The dead included Sunni and Shiite Muslims who appeared to have been killed for sectarian reasons.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the killings. Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan and has a long history of religious, political and criminal violence.


Associated Press writer Adil Jawad contributed to this report from Karachi.