ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani Taliban appointed as its new chief Thursday a hard-line commander responsible for some of the country's worst violence, including the recent killing of a Pakistani general and the attempted assassination of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai last year.
After conferring for six days in North Waziristan, 17 members of the group's governing council selected Maulana Fazlullah as the militant group's new operational and tactical leader, Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a phone interview. Fazlullah replaces Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed by a U.S. drone a week ago in an attack that brought vows of retribution and is complicating relations between the United States and Pakistan.
In choosing a figure whom some analysts describe as Pakistan's most feared man, Shahid said the Taliban's goal was to signal that its insurgency against the government will continue, despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's effort to engage the group in peace talks.
Fazlullah, who is thought to be living in eastern Afghanistan, was the Taliban commander in Pakistan's scenic Swat Valley from 2007 to 2009, when the group effectively controlled the area. It attempted to impose harsh sharia law on residents, and those who resisted it were whipped, beaten, tortured or executed.
Last year, Fazlullah ordered the execution of Malala, 15 at the time, after she spoke out against Taliban attempts to prevent girls from going to school. Malala, who was shot in the head on her school bus, recovered after being airlifted to England for treatment and was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.