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Pakistani Taliban Sacks Deputy Commander

The Pakistani Taliban has sacked its deputy chief Faqir Muhmmad from the key position without naming his successor, local media reports citing a spokesman for the banned militant group said Monday.

A spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was quoted as saying that Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the militant outfit, demoted Faqir Muhmmad to the status of an ordinary fighter at a meeting of the TTP shura or council on Sunday.

The TTP spokesman indicated that a replacement to the post is likely be announced after the next meeting of the TTP leadership. However, no reason was given for the removal of Faqir Muhmmad from the key post.

Analysts believe that it might be the result of a widening rift within the leadership of the dreaded insurgent group. It is believed the latest TTP decision was caused by an ongoing power-struggle within the militant group since the death of its former leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a US drone strike in August 2009.

Faqir Mohammad was a powerful militant commander in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region when he was made the deputy commander of the TTP in 2007. The TTP was formed that year by uniting several militant factions fighting a Pakistani military anti-Taliban offense in the country's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

There has been speculations that Faqir Mohammad fell out with current TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud over his alleged support for peace talks with Pakistan's government. Faqir Mohammad had earlier denied those allegations, but admitted that he had minor differences with the Taliban leadership.

Pakistan is currently struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban despite several ongoing anti-militant offensives in the country's restive north-western tribal regions. Militant attacks in Pakistan have increased sharply since May, when US commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad near Islamabad.

The Pakistani military has launched anti-Taliban operations in six of the seven regions in the country's troubled north-west including South Waziristan and Khyber. Nevertheless, Pakistan has so far resisted US calls to take on Taliban militants in North Waziristan who often launch cross-border attacks on international coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan.

US officials and NATO say Pakistan's reluctance to launch anti-militant operations in North Waziristan has turned the region into a militant stronghold, which the Taliban and other allied insurgent groups often use as a base to plan attacks on foreign coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The United States carries out regular drone strikes on militant targets in the region in response to the Pakistani inaction, but rarely acknowledges them. Recently, President Barack Obama confirmed the ongoing drone strikes, stressing that such strikes allowed the U.S. military to hit militant targets inside Pakistan without engaging in more "intrusive military action."

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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