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PESHAWAR: The Pakis­tani Taliban confirmed on Monday that their deputy leader was killed in a suspected US drone strike last week and said they had appointed a new deputy in his place.

A pair of suspected US missile strikes killed the militant leader, Khalid Mehsud, also known by his alias Sajna, on Thursday last week in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan, security officials here said.

But there were conflic­ting accounts of the drone attack from Pakistani intelligence officials and militant sources.

A spokesman for the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pak­­istan, also known as Pakistani Taliban, said that the drone strike was in the North Waziristan region, on the Pakistani side of the border.

“We confirm that deputy head of the TTP Khalid Mehsud died in a drone strike,” said the spokesman, Mohammad Khurasani.

He said Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah appointed a ‘commander’ called Mufti Noor Wali Wali to replace their dead deputy.

Wali, like his predecessor, would lead militants in South Waziristan.

Militant sources said Wali, known by the nickname Ghar Starga, is a ruthless leader with experience working in Pakistani urban areas, including Karachi.

He studied at a seminary in Faisalabad and recently wrote a book eulogising the founder of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a 2009 drone attack.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2018