Asia

Pakistan Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah rejects talks

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Media captionThe BBC's Haroon Rashid says the Pakistani Taliban "wanted to send out a message to the world"

The new head of the Pakistani Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, has ruled out peace talks with the government, vowing revenge for his predecessor's death.

A Taliban spokesman told the BBC the militants would instead target the military and the governing party.

Mullah Fazlullah was named the new leader six days after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike.

Mullah Fazlullah is a particularly ruthless commander whose men shot the schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.

'Just a trap'

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power in May pledging a negotiated settlement to the insurgency.

The government said a delegation had been due to fly to North Waziristan to discuss peace talks with Hakimullah Mehsud, but he was killed in the drone strike the day before.

The Taliban leadership council, or shura, took six days to come to its decision.

Its leader, Asmatullah Shaheen Bhitani, said: "We will take revenge on Pakistan for the martyrdom of Hakimullah.

"The talks about peace between Pakistan and Taliban leaders is just a trap of enemies and to distract the masses. All political parties that are part of government are considered to be our enemies."

Shahidullah Shahid, another spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), told Agence France-Presse news agency: "Holding peace talks is not even an issue to discuss - this government has no authority, it is not a sovereign government, it is a slave, a slave of America.

"Holding peace talks is a waste of time."

Mehsud was killed when missiles struck his vehicle in the North Waziristan region on 1 November.

The Pakistani government reacted angrily. Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan said that the drone strike was "not just the killing of one person, it's the death of all peace efforts".

The Pakistani government has yet to comment on the new leader.

'Mullah Radio'

When the news was announced, there was reportedly heavy celebratory gunfire in the area around Miranshah, the main town in the tribal area of North Waziristan.

Mullah Fazlullah, believed to be in his mid to late 30s, led a brutal campaign in Swat between 2008 and 2009, enforcing hardline Islamic law that included burning schools, and public floggings and beheadings.

A military operation was launched to retake the area.

Mullah Fazlullah fled over the border into Afghanistan but Islamabad says he has continued to orchestrate attacks in Pakistan.

He was accused of being behind a roadside bomb in September that killed Maj Gen Sanaullah Niazi, the top commander in Swat, along with two other military personnel.

Mullah Fazlullah was known for his radio broadcasts calling for strict Islamic laws and earning him the nickname "Mullah Radio".

In one undated video he pledges to do everything possible to introduce the laws, saying: "We will eliminate anything that will get in the way of achieving this goal: father or brother, soldier or police."

The shooting of Malala Yousafzai in October 2012 sparked outrage in Pakistan and across the globe.

The teenager had spoken out against the Taliban's restrictions on girls' education.

She was airlifted to the UK for hospital treatment and now lives in Birmingham with her family.

This year Malala, now 16, addressed the UN General Assembly and won the European Union's Sakharov human rights prize.

Prior to the latest Taliban announcement, the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad said that Mullah Fazlullah was not a member of the Mehsud clan and, if appointed, would face a challenge to control the Mehsud fighters, who make up the bulk of the Taliban's manpower.

The TTP is a loose umbrella organisation of about 30 militant groups.

Khalid Haqqani has been named deputy leader of the TTP, but he is not thought to be linked to the Haqqani network that is fighting Nato-led troops in Afghanistan.