At least 19 militants were killed in two separate incidents in Pakistan's restive tribal areas Friday, local security officials said, the latest clashes in almost a week of infighting between rival Taliban factions.
The clashes, the result of a power struggle in the militant group, come at a time when the government is trying to negotiate a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban. The violence likely will complicate those efforts.
Speaking to VOA Deewa Radio, retired Brigadier Saad Muhammad Khan says one of the reasons for the infighting is the difference of opinion among the Taliban ranks whether to hold talks with the government.
"Some factions in the Taliban want peace and are not in favor of war with Pakistan, but some want to continue to fight," said Khan.
The Pakistani Taliban has been battling the government in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan for years. At least one splinter group has carried out an attack even after Taliban leaders called a cease-fire with the government for peace talks. The cease-fire has since expired.
Another factor, according to some experts from the region, is the lack of central authority controlling the Pakistani Taliban.
"This is the first time that the leadership of Taliban went from the Mehsud tribe to the Taliban in the Swat region, and the leadership now sits in Afghanistan. That means differences will emerge and new factions surface," said Khan.
The Mehsuds historically have been the largest and most powerful faction in organization. The tension goes back to 2009 when leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike, and there was a struggle within the organization about who would take over.
The Pakistani Taliban’s next leader Hakimullah also was from the Mehsud tribe and he also was killed in a drone strike. The current leader Maulana Fazlullah is not from the Mehsud tribe and is believed to be in Afghanistan.