Al Jazeera’s guide to who’s who among the top ranks of the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador to protest the drone strike that killed Tehreek-e-Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, describing the killing as a US bid to derail planned peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
The country’s Foreign Office said in a statement on Saturday that the strike was “counter-productive to Pakistan’s efforts to bring peace and stability to Pakistan and the region”.
The interior minister echoed that sentiment and said that the drone strike was a “murder of peace”.
“The government of Pakistan does not see this strike as a strike on an individual, but on the peace process,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told Pakistan’s Express-Tribune newspaper.
Nisar accused the US of double-crossing Pakistan after the US ambassador to Islamabad assured him that the US would support a dialogue that Pakistan had initiated with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The US ambassador had also assured Islamabad that there would be no attacks on Pakistani territory, before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Washington for talks last month, said Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder.
“This is definitely causing considerable anger,” our correspondent reported from Islamabad, adding that Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party that rules the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province along the Afghan border, had vowed on Monday to stop NATO supplies from going through the territory into Afghanistan.
Mehsud’s death on Friday came at a crucial moment in Pakistan’s efforts to end the group’s bloody six-year insurgency that has left thousands of soldiers, police and civilians dead.
Sharif had been expected to send a delegation to open contacts with the group, after winning backing for dialogue from political parties last month.
The government said on Saturday that it was determined to pursue talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The TTP had appeared ambivalent on the issue, saying that they were open to dialogue but would not back down from certain demands, including not laying down arms.
Pakistani Taliban fighters secretly buried their leader on Saturday and quickly moved to replace him while vowing a wave of revenge suicide bombings.
“Every drop of Hakimullah’s blood will turn into a suicide bomber,” said Azam Tariq, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman.
|Pakistani Taliban leader dies in US drone strike|
“America and their friends shouldn’t be happy because we will take revenge for our martyr’s blood.”
Security forces were put on red alert after the attack just outside Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan province, bordering Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said that there were very few people on the streets because there were apprehensions of a wave of punitive reprisal attacks by the TTP.
“Security forces had beefed up their positions in all the major cities – and in some areas, the military has taken over the post from the police, while the Pakistani public in general are bracing for a fresh wave of attacks,” said Hyder.
Also on Saturday, the Shura, or consultative body of the TTP, appointed Khan Said as the new of head of the Pakistani Taliban after Mehsud’s death.
Said, also known as “Sajna”, was previously responsible for TTP operations in South Waziristan, and a trusted lieutenant of Mehsud.
The Pakistani Taliban was behind some of the most high-profile attacks in Pakistan in recent years, including the 2008 bombing of the Islamabad Marriott hotel, several attacks against major Pakistani military installations and the attempt to kill schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai last year.