Pakistani Taliban meeting chooses Khan Said ‘Sajna’ as new chief

Published November 2, 2013
Said has no basic education, conventional or religious, but he is battle-hardened and has experience of fighting in Afghanistan. — Photo courtesy of Radio Mashaal
Said has no basic education, conventional or religious, but he is battle-hardened and has experience of fighting in Afghanistan. — Photo courtesy of Radio Mashaal

PESHAWAR: A meeting of the Pakistani Taliban's council on Saturday decided on Khan Said ‘Sajna’ to lead the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a day after a US drone strike killed its former leader Hakimullah Mehsud in North Waziristan.

Most of the members of the shura (council) were present at the meeting which was held at an undisclosed location.

Out of 60 members attending the meeting, 43 members voted in favor of 'Sajna' whereas 17 others voted against him, militant sources told Dawn.com. They said that the appointment of Said, who leads the Taliban in South Waziristan, was not confirmed by several splinter groups of the militant organisation.

A spokesman for the Taliban in South Waziristan, Azam Tariq, declined to say whether ‘Sajna’ had been chosen to lead the TTP umbrella group. He, however, said a formal announcement will be made in the coming days.

Meanwhile, there were reports that at least two other senior Taliban commanders were opposed to Said’s elevation as TTP supremo.

Mullah Fazlullah, the powerful leader of the Swat Taliban who said to be currently based in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, was reported to be holding separate meetings to determine his group’s future strategy.

Fazullah, along with Umar Khalid Khorasani who heads the Taliban in Mohmand tribal agency, were both frontrunners to succeed Hakimullah. Both are to be opposed to Khan Said ‘Sajna’.

Said, who is 36, is believed to be involved in the attack on a Naval base in Karachi and is also credited with masterminding a 2012 jailbreak in which the Taliban freed 400 inmates in the northwestern city of Bannu.

“Sajna has no basic education, conventional or religious, but he is battle-hardened and has experience of fighting in Afghanistan,” an official had said earlier.

Mohmand Taliban leader Khorasani is the only surviving senior Taliban commander who had directly commanded operations under Hakimullah.

Swat Taliban chief Fazlullah is less likely to replace the assassinated TTP chief as he does not belong to the Mehsud clan.

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