PESHAWAR: A senior Pakistani militant commander has been appointed to succeed warlord Mullah Nazir, who orchestrated attacks in Afghanistan until his death in a US drone strike, officials said yesterday.
Nazir, killed late on Wednesday and buried on Thursday, was the main militant commander in the tribal district of South Waziristan, where he plotted attacks on US and Nato troops and reportedly sheltered Al Qaeda operatives.
Two of his deputies were killed with him, but a close associate and militant commander who goes by the name Salahuddin Ayubi has been anointed his successor, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
“Ayubi, whose real name is Bahawal Khan, was appointed as top commander of the group after Nazir’s funeral,” one of the officials said.
He said that Ayubi, who belonged to Nazir’s Kaka Khel sub-division of the main Wazir tribe, had been very close to Nazir for more than 16 years.
Another official described Ayubi as being in his mid-30s, well built and well-respected among his tribesmen and the group.
Taj Wazir, from the Tuji Khel tribe, was appointed deputy after Rafey Khan was also killed in Wednesday’s drone strike.
Ain Ullah, a local commander in the group, confirmed the appointments.
Nazir sent insurgents into Afghanistan to wage war on Nato-led troops and operated out of South Waziristan, on the Afghan border.
The Pentagon could not confirm Nazir’s death but said it would be a “significant blow” and helpful to the US and its Pakistani partners.
But some intelligence officials in the northwest fear that Nazir’s death could help Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Uzbek militants sneak back into South Waziristan.
Nazir had a peace deal with Islamabad, which congratulated him for expelling Uzbeks from South Waziristan, but had testy relations with local Taliban.