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February 10, 2018

TTP commander Sajna killed in US drone strike?

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February 10, 2018

PESHAWAR: There were strong indications that a senior Pakistani militant commander and leader of the Mehsud Taliban faction Khan Said aka Sajna was killed in Thursday’s drone strike in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, official and tribal sources said. There were however conflicting reports about the area where he was killed along with six other militants. A Pakistani security official in North Waziristan on condition of anonymity said that Commander Sajna was targeted at his house-cum-compound in Laman area of Khar Tangi in Birmal subdivision Afghanistan's Paktika province. He said that the drone fired two missiles and struck a compound where Sajna was staying along with a group of fighters. The official said Sajna and his slain militants were laid to rest at 5:00pm the same day in Afghanistan's Naraai area. Tribal sources in South Waziristan and Dera Ismail Khan said Sajna was travelling in a double cabin pick-up truck along with militants when it came under attack from the drone. As per their account, the drone fired two missiles and tore apart the vehicle, killing all seven onboard. Some religious leaders and tribal elders in South Waziristan said they were hearing the news of Sajna's killing in a drone strike since Thursday but there was no official confirmation from the militants themselves.

"Something might have happened as we have been hearing here from different people in Dera Ismail Khan that some Mehsud militants had been killed in a drone strike in the border area," a Mehsud tribal elder said.

A prominent religious leader, Maulana Essamuddin also said that he had been hearing similar reports but there was no official confirmation from the government or Taliban.

Khan Said, also known as Khalid Mehsud, was head of the Mehsud militants’ faction.

Initially he and all other Mehsud militants were based in South Waziristan when Baitullah Mehsud brought together all militant groups and became leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

All the Mehsud militants then shifted to the adjacent North Waziristan tribal region when the government in October 2009 launched a massive military offensive against the local and foreign militants.

Sajna was considered close to Baitullah Mehsud and particularly his deputy, Maulana Waliur Rahman Mehsud.

After the killing of Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in 2009 in South Waziristan's Zangara area, Hakimullah Mehsud managed to become leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

It had hurt Maulana Waliur Rahman as Baitullah Mehsud had repeatedly nominated him as his deputy.

Later, Waliur Rahman was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan and thus Sajna became deputy to Hakimullah Mehsud.

Another militant commander, Shehryar Mehsud was close to Hakimullah Mehsud and was an aspirant to become the TTP head. When Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in drone strike in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Sajna Said wanted to be chosen as head of the Mehsud militants. This put him into confrontation with Shehryar Mehsud. The Mehsud militants split into two factions under Sajna and Shehryar Mehsud. Both suffered losses as they killed each other's fighters and supporters.

Taliban sources said that like his leader, Waliur Rahman, Sajna was initially stated to be in the list of "good Taliban" in Pakistan as they never participated in terrorist activities against the Pakistani state. Later though, both started fighting the Pakistani state and Sajna escaped to Afghanistan when the military launched the Zarb-e-Azb operation in North Waziristan in June 2014.

His spokesman Azam Tariq (his real name was Raees Khan and was a schoolteacher in South Waziristan before becoming a militant) was killed, along with his son and seven other Mehsud militants, in US drone strike in September 2016 in Afghanistan's Paktika province.

Those who knew Sajna closely said he never attended a madrassa and was rather studying in a college when militant activities were on the rise in his native South Waziristan.

"Sajna was not a religious leader. Before joining the Mehsud militants, he was studying in a college and had spent some time with Tableeghi Jumaat," one of his old friends said.

Pleading anonymity, he said the 45-year-old Sajna was born in Dwa Toi village, located between Makeen and Sara Rogha in South Waziristan's Ladha subdivision.

He belonged to the Shabi Khel clan of Mehsud tribe. His father, Malik Muhammad, is a tribal elder and is still alive.

"I haven't seen such a clean person like him. He would clearly state that his mission is fighting against the foreign occupying forces in Afghanistan," said a Mehsud religious leader who claimed he knew Sajna and was aware of his activities.

Senator Saleh Shah, a prominent religious leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl group from South Waziristan, said Sajna had never been involved in any terrorist activity in Pakistan.

"He didn't even kill a bird in Pakistan. He was one of the people who never took funds from any other country to fight against the Pakistani state,” he opined. However, Senator Saleh Shah didn't confirm his death.

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