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TTP confirmed killing of Khan Said Sajna in drone strike

13 February, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Monday confirmed the killing of senior leader Khan Said Sajna in a US drone strike, in what is being seen a serious blow to the group which could also trigger efforts for the greater role by Mehsud militants.

Sajna, the TTP deputy chief, was also heading the powerful Taliban militants belonging to the Mehsud tribe until his death along with his at least three guards.

TTP spokesman Mohammad Khorasani, who confirmed Sanja’s death in drone strike on Feb 8, said in a statement that Mufti Noorwali Mehsud has been appointed as the new head of the Mehsud unit, called ‘Halqa-e-Mehsud’. Khorasani said Mufti Noorwali has ‘renewed his allegiance’ to TTP Chief Fazalullah and showed confidence in his leadership.

A former senior Taliban militant leader, who knew Sajna for years, told Daily Times that Sajna’s death is a major blow to the TTP as he was the only Taliban Mehsud commander who had good relations with other groups like Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and al-Qaeda. “But Mehsud unit’s new leader is considered limited to the Mehsud Taliban only and this approach is likely to create gaps with Fazalullah,” he said.

TTP remained under the control of Mehsud Taliban leaders since its launch by Baitullah Mehsud in 2007. Hakimullah Mehsud led the group until his death in a US drone strike near Miranshah in November 2013. Baitullah was also killed in a US drone attack along with his wife in South Waziristan in 2009.

Mufti Noorwali, whose book ‘Inqilab Mehsood South Waziristan – From British Raj to American Imperialism’ released online in January had lots of praise for the Mehsud Taliban’s role in the TTP. The book also caused some schism in the TTP’s ranks.

TTP spokesman Khorasani in response to a question about the book had earlier said Taliban had nothing to do with the book. “Whoever has written the book, it is his personal views and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has nothing to do with it. The TTP statements, videos, audios and books are issued through the TTP’s central pages and social media channels,” the TTP spokesman said.

Sajna was the close confidant of Baitullah Mehsud and had served as TTP’s finance secretary under Baitullah. Before the launch of TTP, Sajna had been active with the Afghan Taliban, according to tribal journalists. Sajna was the main character behind the 2012 Bannu jailbreak by Taliban in which over 350 militants had been freed. High-profile Taliban prisoner Adnan Rashid, a former junior technician of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), was among the freed inmates. Rashid was believed to be behind the plot to kill former military president Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi. Musharraf survived two attacks in December 2003.

Controversy where Sajna was targeted? Taliban Mehsud leaders, who were aware of the US strike on Sajna’s vehicle, had said last week that the US drone rained missiles on his car in Bermal district of Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province. However, the TTP spokesman said Sajna came under attack in North Waziristan’s Gurwek area. Pakistani officials have not reported any drone strike in North Waziristan in recent weeks.

Majority of Waziristan Taliban have been living in Paktika, Paktiya and Khost provinces, according to tribal journalists.

Military commanders in North Waziristan told Islamabad-based media persons during briefings on Feb 9 about border fence with Afghanistan that the region had been cleared of the militants and that currently ‘all threats emanated from the Afghan side of the border’.

Sajna’s death could further mount pressure on the Taliban militants who security officials insist operate from Afghanistan’s border regions and launch attacks on Pakistani border posts from there.

Sajna is added to the list of senior TTP leaders who have reportedly been killed in Afghanistan and is the third senior Pakistani militant who has been killed in Afghanistan in less than three months.

Top Pakistani Taliban commander, Maulana Jan Wali alias Sheena, was killed in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in a bomb blast in late December.

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