New Pak Taliban Chief Fought in Kashmir

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ISLAMABAD:  Bahawal Khan, who took over as the new chief of a Taliban faction in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region after the killing of Mullah Nazir in a US drone strike, is a militant who has fought Indian troops in Kashmir.

Commander Bahawal Khan alias Salahuddin Turabi was named the head of the faction shortly after Nazir and 12 other militants were killed in the drone strike in Angoor Adda area on Thursday.

He fought as a militant in Jammu and Kashmir, sources were quoted as saying in Pakistani media reports.

A member of the Kakakhel sub-tribe of the Ahmedzai Wazirs, Bahawal is an illiterate former bus driver.

The 34-year-old father of two also ran a hotel. He fought alongside the Afghan Taliban before the 9/11 terror attacks. Bahawal, who is also known as Salahuddin Ayubi, was chosen by the ‘Shura’ (council) of the Mullah Nazir group and elders of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe.

A report in The News described Khan as “tough and inflexible” while the BBC reported that he is “seen as hot-tempered, unlike his predecessor”.

The Mullah Nazir group is one of the three Taliban factions based in the tribal belt that preferred attacking US and allied forces in Afghanistan instead of Pakistani troops.

Mullah Nazir had finalised a peace deal with Pakistani security forces in 2007 and was considered to be among “good” Taliban. Khan is a long-time associate of Nazir and is expected to continue his predecessor’s policy of maintaining peace in South Waziristan while focussing on attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan.

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