Mullah Fazlullah. — File photo
MIRAMSHAH: Mullah Fazlullah, the new head of banned organisation Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has returned to Pakistan's tribal areas, a spokesman for the militants said Tuesday, after several years based in Afghanistan.
Hardline cleric Maulana Fazlullah was elected as leader of the TTP last month after his predecessor Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone strike.
Fazlullah has been based mainly in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan since 2009, when a military operation ended his followers' brutal two-year rule of northwest Swat valley.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said Fazlullah was now “commanding the Taliban movement at an unknown location in the tribal areas”.
The TTP and other militants have strongholds in the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas along the country's rugged, porous border with Afghanistan.
Shahid's comments came after some local TV channels reported that Fazlullah had reached Waziristan.
“It is not true that Maulana Fazlullah is in Waziristan, he is in the tribal areas but at an unknown location,” Shahid told AFP.
Then-TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone attack in North Waziristan on November 1, while South Waziristan was largely cleared of militant hideouts by a military offensive in 2009.
Washington has pushed for a similar operation in North Waziristan, currently seen as the major hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
Fazlullah, who has a $500,000 government bounty on his head, has mounted some brutal and humiliating attacks on Pakistan's military, including the beheading of 17 soldiers after an attack in June 2012.