New Taliban leader vows revenge attacks in Pakistan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN - ReutersThe Pakistani Taliban announced Nov. 8 they would orchestrate a wave of revenge attacks against the government after naming hardline commander Mullah Fazlullah as their new leader.
The rise of Fazlullah, known for his fierce Islamist views and rejection of peace talks, by the Taliban shura, or leadership council, a day earlier follows the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the previous leader, in a U.S. drone strike on Nov. 1.
“We will target security forces, government installations, political leaders and police,” Asmatullah Shaheen, head of the shura, told Reuters.
He said the Taliban’s main target included army and government installations in Punjab province, the political stronghold of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan publicly condemns U.S. drone strikes as a breach of its sovereignty but in private officials admit the government broadly supports them. Militants are mainly holed up in remote areas on the Afghan border where the army has no presence. Attacks have been on the rise since Sharif came to power in May, a concern for global powers already unnerved by the possible security implications of the planned withdrawal of most U.S.-led troops from neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014.
Mehsud and his allies had been tentatively open to the concept of cease-fire talks with the government, but Fazlullah, whose men were behind the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai last year, strongly opposes any negotiations.
After U.S.-led forces entered Afghanistan to oust the Afghan Taliban from power in 2001, Fazlullah joined thousands of Pakistanis who crossed the border to fight what they saw as a “holy war” against the invaders.
He was arrested on his way back to Pakistan but was later released on bail and became the head of the sharia movement in Swat after his father-in-law was jailed. In 2006 he began delivering fiery sermons on his own FM station, earning the nickname “Mullah Radio,” railing against polio vaccination programs and girls’ education.