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November 03, 2013

Pakistani Taliban Names Interim Chief

by VOA News

The Pakistani Taliban has named an interim chief after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone strike.

A Taliban spokesman told local reporters Sunday that central shura leader Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani had been named interim chief. Earlier reports from the area had suggested that another Taliban militant, Said Khan, who is known as "Sajna" was also a likely successor to Mehsud. Both men are considered possible permanent replacements for Mehsud.

Pakistan's government has protested the drone strike that killed Mehsud, saying the United States was sabotaging Pakistani peace talks with the domestic Taliban by killing the group's leader.

The Taliban is blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis, including soldiers, police officials and civilians in its six-year campaign for a harsher version of Islam and to end Pakistan's alliance with the United States.

The Pakistani army has launched numerous operations against the Taliban but the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also been trying to end the conflict through negotiations.

The drone strike that killed Mehsud in the North Wazirstan tribal area came a day before the government was to send a three-member delegation of clerics to the region with a formal invitation to start peace talks.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.