ISLAMABAD: A senior leader of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been killed in eastern Afghanistan, a counterterrorism official said on Monday.

The official identified the terrorist as Mufti Khalid Balti, also known as Mohammad Khorasani.

He was reportedly killed over the last weekend by unidentified gunmen in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. It appeared from some of the pictures circulating on social media that he was shot in the forehead. Specific details of the incident were not available.

A source separately claimed that Balti’s mutilated body was found in a sack.

Balti, who was in his late forties, remained TTP spokesman and the head of its media cell for some time after his predecessor Shahidullah Shahid left the group and joined the militant Islamic State group. Balti held the position for almost a year till his arrest in 2015 by the then Afghan government.

Mufti Khalid Balti was said to be planning terrorist attacks in Pakistan

He had moved to Afghanistan after the start of Operation Zarb-i-Azb in 2014.

Many in the media confused Balti with the TTP’s current spokesman, who too holds the same alias of Mohammad Khorasani.

The TTP in a statement said that its current spokesman was alive. It further said that the wellbeing of Balti was being inquired.

Balti, who hailed from Gilgit-Baltistan’s Ganchhe district, however, was an important figure in the TTP hierarchy.

The official described him as a “vital core member” and “an active high-level terrorist commander”, who was busy planning terrorist activities in Pakistan.

He was said to be having contacts across the TTP hierarchy and was also involved the unification of the group’s splinter factions.

Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies Director Amir Rana told Dawn that investigations in last July’s attack on the bus of Chinese workers in Dassu revealed that Balti was linked to its planning.

Mr Rana was, however, skeptical that Balti’s elimination would have any major impact on the terrorist group.

A security official said Balti was a regular visitor to Kabul since the Taliban assumed control of the war-ravaged country on Aug 15 last year. He said the terrorist was planning attacks in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2022

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