Pakistani Taliban choose new leader

News article, posted 11.15.2013, from Pakistan, in:
Emily Schneider
Pakistani Taliban choose new leader

Meet Mullah Fazlullah, the new Taliban commander

The Pakistani Taliban have picked Mullah Fazlullah, head of a militant faction in northwestern Swat Valley, as their new commander (NYT, Pajhwok, Dawn). After six days of deliberations, the Pakistani Taliban settled on Fazlullah, who is known for ordering public beatings, executions, and beheadings, and delivering "thunderous" radio broadcasts that have earned him the nickname "Mullah Radio." Falzlullah was also the commander responsible for the Taliban's attack on Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani education activist who was a Nobel Peace prize favorite last month (NYT). Fazlullah has been an enemy of the Pakistani military for years; he escaped the army's toughest anti-Taliban offensive in recent years when he escaped thousands of soldiers descending on Swat and fled to Afghanistan in 2009. His fighters also killed a two-star army general in Dir district in September.

Fazlullah was not the favorite coming into the leadership council deliberations, but members of the Mehsud tribe, which has dominated the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban since 2007, has been dramatically thinned by the CIA drone campaign. His predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a drone strike on November 1 and many say his death, and now the appointment of Fazllullah, signal an end to any hopes for peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban. Fazlullah's spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said on Thursday that there would be "no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations."

On Friday, Asmatullah Shaheen, a member of the Taliban leadership council, warned Reuters that the Taliban will conduct a wave of attacks against the government in retaliation for Mehsud's death (Reuters). He said they would target security forces, government installations, political leaders, and police in retaliatory attacks.