PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A ruthless commander whose fighters were blamed for shooting schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was named as the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban on Thursday, a spokesman for the militant group told NBC News.
Maulana Fazlullah, who is known as "Radio Mullah" due to his fiery on-air messages, succeeds Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Friday.
"After proper consultations and mutual understanding, we chose our senior commander Maulana Fazlullah as our new emir [leader]," Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told NBC News. "He will lead all the militant groups operating under the umbrella of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan."
Speaking by phone from Afghanistan, Shahid said that the militants would not hold peace talks with Pakistan. He added that Sheik Khalid Haqqani had been appointed the group's deputy leader.
The Pakistani Taliban has been blamed for the deaths of at least 40,000 civilians and 5,000 troops during its decade-long insurgency against the country's government. The group has also been known to support their Afghan brothers-in-arms, who are a separate group under the leadership of the elusive Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Fazlullah, 39, commanded forces in the treacherous Swat region of northern Pakistan which ordered the closure of all girls’ schools.
Yousafzai was shot by militants last year because of her campaign to promote education among women.
Considered a hardliner even within the Taliban movement, Fazlullah earned himself the nickname "Radio Mullah" after establishing a radio station to broadcast his views.
A 2009 offensive by Pakistani troops forced him across the border into Afghanistan and he is now believed to be hiding in Afghanistan's Nuristan province.
Earlier, a senior Taliban source told NBC News that a decision had been delayed as initially the "majority of shura [ruling council] members were not unanimous in agreeing on one person to become the emir."
The source also explained the process for selecting Mehsud's successor.
“We consider democracy as an un-Islamic practice,” he added. “Therefore we don't nominate the emir on the basis of majority. If member of the shura wants to support someone for the job, he has to give strong arguments in his favor. All the members take turns to repeat this exercise and the final decision is made by the emir of the central shura with his council."
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First published November 7 2013, 5:59 AM