Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Malala Plotter Chosen as Next Pakistani Taliban Leader

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Malala Plotter Chosen as Next Pakistani Taliban Leader

Article excerpt

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan -

The Pakistani Taliban chose the ruthless commander who planned the attack on teenage activist Malala Yousafzai as the militant group's new leader today, and it ruled out holding peace talks with the government.

Mullah Fazlullah was unanimously appointed the new chief by the Taliban's leadership council, or shura, after several days of deliberation, said the head of the shura, Asmatullah Shaheen Bhitani. Militants fired AK-47 assault rifles and anti-aircraft guns into the air to celebrate.

The decision came less than a week after a U.S. drone strike killed leader Hakimullah Mehsud in the North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.

Even though Mehsud was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistani civilians and security forces, his Nov. 1 killing outraged Pakistani officials. They accused the U.S. of sabotaging the government's attempt to strike a peace deal with the militants - although many analysts doubted a deal was likely.

The government said the drone strike came a day before it planned to send a delegation of clerics to formally invite the Pakistani Taliban to hold peace talks.

Bhitani, the Taliban shura leader, ruled out holding peace talks with the government, accusing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of selling out the group when he met with President Barack Obama in Washington on Oct. 23.

"We will take revenge on Pakistan for the martyrdom of Hakimullah," Mr. Bhitani told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location in North Waziristan, where the shura met.

Pakistani officials have criticized U.S. drone strikes in public, saying they violate the country's sovereignty and kill too many civilians. But the government is known to have secretly supported at least some of the attacks.

Mr. Fazlullah has served as the Pakistani Taliban's leader in the northwest Swat Valley but is believed to be hiding in neighboring Afghanistan. He rose to prominence through radio broadcasts demanding the imposition of a harsh brand of Islam, earning him the nickname "Mullah Radio. …

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