Pakistan Taliban withdraw peace offer after death of deputy leader in drone strike as Khan Said is appointed the new No 2


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The Independent Online

A spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban said the group was withdrawing its offer of peace talks following the drone strike that killed the group's deputy leader.

The militants' spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, confirmed to the Associated Press in a telephone call from an undisclosed location on Thursday that the group's second-in-command, Wali-ur-Rehman, was killed on Wednesday in an American drone attack in the tribal areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan.

Previously the group had said it was open to peace talks. Pakistan's prime minister-elect, Nawaz Sharif, has also indicated he wants to negotiate with the Taliban and has sent out signals to a religious scholar known as the Godfather of the Taliban, that he wishes to talk asked him to act as his envoy.

However, Mr Ahsan, said that following the killing of Mr Ashan, the group was withdrawing its offer of talks.

US drone strikes, which usually target al-Qa'ida and Taliban fighters involved in attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan, are deeply controversial in Pakistan. Analysts have said the fact that the Americans had targeted the Pakistan Taliban, which has largely attacked targets inside Pakistan, could suggest co-operation with the Pakistani military.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the Taliban had already picked a successor to Mr Rehman. Reuters said a Pakistan Taliban committee met late on Wednesday to choose a deputy after the one-time deputy was buried in a low-key ceremony.

The new number two, Khan Said, 38, had served as Wali-ur-Rehman's deputy. He was involved in planning a 2011 attack on a Pakistani navy base in Karachi in which 18 people were killed and a 2012 jail break in which nearly 400 militant inmates escaped, Taliban members said.

“There was absolute consensus over Khan Said,” one Pakistani Taliban member said.

Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban have launched devastating attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians. It is a separate entity to the Afghan Taliban, though allied with them.

Wednesday's drone strike, which killed six other people, was the first in Pakistan since a May 11 election in which strikes by the unmanned US aircraft became a major issue.

It was also the first reported US drone strike since President Barack Obama announced last week that the United States was scaling back the drone programme.