Another 14 militants killed as clashes between feuding factions of the Pakistani Taliban persist.
Fresh clashes on Tuesday between two feuding factions of the Pakistani Taliban left 14 people dead, security officials and militant sources said.
A total of 34 people have now been killed since fighting broke out Sunday in the Waziristan tribal district between supporters of Khan Said Sajna and followers of the late Hakimullah Mehsud, they said. Militant sources suggested that differences emerged after Khan Said Sajna, a senior commander, was rejected for leadership of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) umbrella group, after its former leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike last November.
“At least 12 people have been killed in a firefight between militant groups in the Shaktai area of South Waziristan. The fighting still goes on,” said a security official in Miranshah, the main town in neighboring North Waziristan. Sources from both militant groups confirmed the clashes and death toll.
In a separate incident two militants from another faction, the Badar Mansur group, were killed when unknown attackers fired at a car in Miranshah Monday night.
The TTP, which was formed in 2007 and is waging a bloody insurgency against the government, has long been riven by infighting. A senior TTP commander said efforts were being made to resolve differences between the Sajna and Hakimullah Mehsud groups but the former refused to reach any agreement.
“There are always differences among the people. There are fights also, some people fight for money, some for other interests,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Khan Said Sajna was a strong candidate to become TTP chief following Mehsud’s death. But the movement’s shura at the last minute elected Mullah Fazlullah, who hails from Swat and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.
Analysts say the latest fighting is an extension of a battle for the TTP’s leadership between groups loyal to Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud after the death of its founder Baitullah Mehsud in a drone strike in 2009. “The fight has now been intensified because the present commanders, Shehryar Mehsud of the Hakimullah group and Khan Said Sajna, want to prove their strength,” said Saifullah Mehsud, a researcher at the FATA research center.
The Pakistani government began negotiations through intermediaries with the TTP in February to try to end its insurgency. The TTP have demanded the release of what they called “noncombatant” prisoners and the establishment of a “peace zone” from which security forces would be barred.