Pakistani Taliban: Two men to replace Baitullah Mehsud
Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman will share control, but analysts say infighting could erupt again.
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According to a tribesman in South Waziristan, who could not be named for his own safety, Hakimullah, thought to be just 28, had threatened to form a breakaway group if he wasn't given the title of leader.Skip to next paragraph
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"In order to avoid bloodshed, Waliur Rehman has been forced by the Afghan side to agree. He's a decent, respected guy," said the tribesman.
He added that the dispute was mediated by a representative of Mullah Omar, founder of the Afghan Taliban, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of veteran Afghan jihadist Jalaluddin Haqqani. The Pakistani Taliban regards its older Afghan counterpart as its mentor, and the Haqqani network in particular wields considerable influence over the Afghan branch.
Keeping ties with Al Qaeda
Hakimullah could be the choice of Al Qaeda, analysts say, as he is linked closely to two terrorist groups banned in Pakistan – Sepah-e-Sahaba and its even more extreme offshoot, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – that now take their lead from Mr. bin Laden.
Hakimullah formerly belonged to Sepah-e-Sahaba. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is regarded as a key Al Qaeda facilitator in Pakistan and played a role in many of the bombings and other attacks that have rocked the country more than two years, including the assault on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year.
Given the rivalry between Rehman, who is more popular in South Waziristan, and Hakimullah, analysts think that the power struggle could erupt again. According to an unconfirmed report, denied by the Taliban, the rivalry had led to a gun battle earlier this month in which both were injured. Until Tuesday, many were convinced that Hakimullah had died in that clash.
The pair appeared to be sitting together as they called select local journalists Tuesday evening, after the end of the Ramadan fast, as they passed the phone between them, according to one person who spoke to both.
"There are no differences between the various Taliban factions, and we are all united," Rehman told reporters from an undisclosed location.
Rehman, who has a religious education, unlike Hakimullah, hit out at the West, even threatening attacks.
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The Pakistani Taliban has no known capacity to mount attacks in the West.
Speaking before the announcement on the Taliban leadership, Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, was confident that the extremist movement was sinking.
"They cannot hide," Malik said. "We are close to their jugular vein. Now the people have turned against them."