Terrorist who ordered Malala’s assassination is new head of Pakistan Taliban
Maulana Fazlullah, a Taliban leader with a reputation for brutality, replaces Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone strike.
Maulana Fazlullah, a ruthless terrorist leader best known for ordering the assassination of Malala Yousafzai, has been picked as the new head of the Pakistan Taliban, according to the movement’s spokesman.
He replaces Hakimullah Mehsud who was killed in a CIA drone strike on Friday.
Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio for his chilling propaganda broadcasts, led a brutal two-year occupation of the Swat Valley which was ended in 2009 by an army offensive.
He is believed to have been selected for offering the most anti-Pakistan credentials of all the rumoured candidates for the post.
“Fazlullah is the new leader,” said Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, by telephone from an undisclosed location. “It was decided by the central shura and the decision is finalised.”
The announcement was greeted by gunfire in Taliban-controlled parts of North Waziristan, one of the lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The selection of such an uncompromising hardliner suggests there is now little chance that long-trailed peace talks with the government can succeed.
Fazlullah, a school drop-out, is thought to be 39 and is the head of the Swat Taliban. He ordered the closure of girls schools during his occupation of the Swat Valley, when his forces moved to within striking distance of the capital Islamabad.
They were eventually pushed back by the Pakistan army and he is now based across the border in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
He was given his nickname after setting up a radio station to broadcast propaganda.
In her recently published memoir, the schoolgirl activist Malala described listening to his increasingly angry rhetoric.
“At Eid, we usually sacrifice animals like goats or sheep. But Fazlullah said, ‘On this Eid two-legged animals will be sacrificed.’ We soon saw what he meant,” she wrote, detailing a wave of murders that followed.
She was shot in the head after keeping an online diary detailing abuses carried out by Fazlullah’s men.
He dispatched two assassins from his base in Kunar province, Afghanistan, to kill the 15-year-old last year, but in doing so attracted a wave of criticism and turned Malala into a globally-recognised peace campaigner.
It was just the latest in a string of attacks, bloody even by Pakistan’s warped standards. Last year, his men kidnapped and beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in one of several cross border raids.
Last month he claimed credit for the assassination of a senior Pakistani army general in a roadside bombing.
His appointment is a blow to hopes the new leader would prove less confrontational than Mehsud and might be willing to engage in peace talks with the government.
Saifullah Mahsud, of the Fata Research Centre, said: “We were hoping a less controversial leader would replace Hakimullah, someone who would have made it easier for peace talks to happen, but that opportunity is lost.”