Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Pakistan

Sources: Pakistani Taliban Chooses New Second-In-Command

Khan Sayed, also known as Sajna
Khan Sayed, also known as Sajna

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By RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan -- The Pakistani Taliban have reportedly selected a new deputy leader.

Taliban sources have told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chose Khan Sayed as the TTP's new No. 2.

Khan Sayed is reportedly replacing Wali-ur Rehman Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban’s previous second-in-command who sources say was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

Sayed, also known by his nickname Sajna, was a longtime deputy to Rehman. Sajna means "close friend" in Punjabi and other South Asian languages.

According to RFE/RL Radio Mashaal correspondent, Sailab Mehsud, like many Pakistani Taliban commanders, Sayed has been involved in fighting in neighboring Afghanistan for decades.

"He was closely associated with the jihad in Afghanistan in the past [the 1990s] and now," Mehsud says. "He was reported injured in the drone attack yesterday [Wednesday] but later on those reports proved wrong. He is seen to be inside Afghanistan now."

Mehsud says that Sayed has no formal education and is not known for his religious learning.

Nonetheless, he maintains that Sayed is seen as a pragmatic operative.

"He is well-versed with the Pashtun tribal councils called jirgas," he says. "He is known for listening carefully and responding with cautious arguments."

Sayed, who is 36, is believed to have been involved in the 2011 attack on a Pakistani naval base in Karachi.

He is also credited with masterminding a 2012 jailbreak in which the Taliban freed 400 inmates in the northwestern city of Bannu.

Sayed's predecessor Rehman was said to have been killed on May 29 in North Waziristan on Pakistan's western border with Afghanistan together with several other militants.

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The Pakistani government has not yet officially confirmed Rehman’s death, but it condemned the strike as a "breach of sovereignty." The United States has also not confirmed the death.

Rehman was the alleged mastermind of the September 2008 attack on the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, in which more than 50 people were killed.

He had reportedly been poised to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud as leader of the TTP.

The U.S. government has offered rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the location of the two men.

Several other Taliban figures were reportedly killed in the drone strike, including the high-ranking commander Naseeruddin.

The Pakistani Taliban is a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban. The TTP has claimed many attacks against Pakistani military as well as civilian targets, including election rallies, schools, and antipolio campaigns.

With reporting by Reuters

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