Conflict & Justice

The Pakistani Taliban have a new leader — and that's not good news


Pakistan Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, left, is seen with his arm around Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud during a news conference in South Waziristan in this May 24, 2008, file photo. Hakimullah was killed by a US drone attack.



The Pakistani Taliban's new leader, Mullah Fazlullah has already made it clear he's not in a conciliatory mood.

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Just a few hours after his nomination he said he's not willing to engage in any peace talks with the government. And that's not all.

"Since his leadership has been announced, the Taliban spokesman has come out and said that the Taliban forces will now concentrate its forces on carrying out some sort of retaliatory attack for Mr. Mehsud's death," says Declan Walsh, the Pakistan bureau chief for The New York Times.

Mullah Fazlullah is a well-known Taliban figure in Pakistan, through the many attacks he either help orchestrate or carried out himself.

"He cemented a reputation for ruthlessness and violence. The Taliban abducted and killed many perceived enemies when they were in control in Swat Valley," Walsh says.

He also led a brutal campaign through the Valley in 2008 and 2009 that included public floggings and beheading.

A few years back, Fazlullah became known for radio broadcasts in which he called for strict Islamic laws. The broadcasts earned him the nickname "Mullah Radio."

Fazlullah replaces Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed last Friday when a US drone attacked his car. The attack happened only a few days after the leader declared the Taliban would be interested in peace talks with the Pakistani government.

Mehsud's death angered the Pakistani government because, according to Walsh, even though he'd orchestrated many attacks in Pakistan's cities and had killed thousands of civilians, the Pakistani government felt that now wasn't the right time to kill him.

While Mehsud's death brought an end to a very dark era for some Pakistanis, it didn't take long for a successor to fill in his place.