The Pakistani Taliban on Saturday confirmed the death of their leader, Mullah Fazlullah, in a U.S. drone strike and appointed a cleric as its new chief.
Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, leader of the most powerful faction within the Taliban, would now head the militia, spokesman Mohamed Khorassani announced in a statement.
Fazlullah, a reputedly ruthless commander, who ordered the attack against young Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan last week.
Two rival groups were vying for their candidates to lead the militia, which has killed around 70,000 Pakistanis in a decade of violence.
Umer Rehman Swati, a militant from the north-western town of Swat, was at one point expected to be chosen as the new leader but he was challenged by the eventual winner Mehsud, sources in the militia earlier told dpa.
Mehsud, a cleric and a militant veteran, is thought to be close to the Afghan Taliban’s influential Haqqani network, which supported his bid.
The choice of a leader with links to the Haqqanis could be a signal that the Taliban are ready for reconciliation with Pakistani authorities, a Taliban source said.
A Taliban council chose Mehsud after several days of consultation in Afghanistan, where many Pakistani militants are based after being driven out from their hideouts by the military, Khorassani said in an email to media.
The leadership transition was apparently peaceful, unlike in 2013 when dozens of fighters were killed before Fazlullah became leader.
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