PESHAWAR/DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Pakistani Taliban named Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud as the new leader on Saturday, a week after the previous chief Mullah Fazlullah was killed in a U.S.-Afghan air strike in Afghanistan, the group’s spokesman said.
Fazlullah was killed on June 15 in a strike in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which is on the Pakistani border.
His killing is likely to ease tensions between the United States and Pakistan, which Washington has blamed for harboring militants who carry out attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies helping the militants.
Tehreek-e-Taliban spokesman Muhammed Khorasani said in a statement it was a matter of pride that all the previous leaders had been martyred, referring to Fazlullah’s two predecessors who were also killed in drone strikes.
This was the first time the Taliban had publicly admitted to Fazlullah’s death.
Mehsud was appointed deputy leader by Fazlullah in February after the previous second in command Khalid Mehsud was killed in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.
The Pakistani Taliban have waged a decade-long insurgency seeking to establish a harsh interpretation of Islamic rule but most of their fighters have now fled to Afghanistan.
They are separate from the Afghan Taliban who ruled Afghanistan for five years before being ousted in a 2001 U.S.-led military intervention.
Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Andrew Bolton