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Pakistani Taliban Appoints Interim Leader

A combined photo of an undated handout image showing Khan Said Sanja, also known as Khalid (left), who is thought to have been named interim head Chief of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the death of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud (right)
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan -- The Pakistani Taliban has appointed an interim chief after the death of the militant group's leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone attack.

A Taliban commander told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal on condition of anonymity that Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani was appointed on November 3 as temporary head of the Tehrik-e Taliban.

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The spokesman said a permanent replacement for Mehsud had not been chosen yet.

On November 2, Taliban sources in Pakistan told RFE/RL that Khan Said, also known as Sajna, had been tipped as a possible successor.

Mehsud was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone strike in the North Waziristan tribal area on November 1.

Pakistan has summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest the drone strike, saying the attack had destroyed the country's nascent peace process.

The United States has brushed aside claims that the drone strike had destroyed the peace process. A State Department official said that talks with the militants are an "internal matter for Pakistan."

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"We will not allow the peace talks to be killed," Pakistani Information Minister Pervez Rashid said after reports of the drone strike.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had pledged to talk with the Taliban to try to end its campaign of violence, which has left thousands of people dead in bombings and shootings.

With reporting by AFP