The US reportedly killed the deputy emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in a drone strike along the Afghan-Pakistan border earlier today. However, the death of Sajna Mehsud has not been confirmed by the US government or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is also known as the TTP.
Reports from the region are conflicting on the location of the strike that supposedly killed Sajna, his nephew Ismail, and two bodyguards. TOLONews and GEO News indicated Sajna was killed in a strike that targeted his vehicle as it traveled in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Express Tribune reported Sajna was killed in the Bermal district in Paktika province in Afghanistan.
Sajna’s death has also not been confirmed. The US government has not stated that it targeted or killed Sajna in an airstrike. The TTP has not issued a martyrdom or other official statement announcing his death.
Sajna is also known as Khan Said and Khalid Mehsud. He took control of the Taliban’s powerful Mehsud faction after the death of Hakemullah Mehsud, the previous emir of the TTP. Sajna declared the formation of the Movement of the Taliban in South Waziristan in 2014 and broke away from the TTP after a leadership dispute with Mullah Fazlullah, who was appointed the emir of the TTP. At the time of the split, the spokesman for Khalid’s group accused its parent organization of being “un-Islamic.”
Sajna reunited the Movement of the Taliban in South Waziristan with the TTP in Feb. 2017, and he was named the group’s deputy emir. [See Discord dissolves Pakistani Taliban coalition and Mehsud faction rejoins the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan]
Sajna is wanted by the US government and his group has been on the CIA’s target list for its drone program in Pakistan. The US added Sajna to the list of specially designated global terrorists in Oct. 2014. His forces are known to wage jihad in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The US has targeted Sajna’s followers in airstrikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Feb. 2016, US warplanes struck a meeting in the Afghan province of Paktika that Sajna was expected to attend. Eighteen of his followers were reportedly killed. In April 2015, US drones killed four of Sajna’s followers in a strike in South Waziristan.
Sajna’s supporters have executed several high profile attacks in the region, including the May 2011 assault on Naval Station Mehran in Karachi that resulted in the destruction of two US-supplied P-3C Orion maritime surveillance planes. He also orchestrated a 2012 prison break in Bannu, which freed Adnan Rasheed, a commander who has a long history with Pakistani terrorist groups as well as al Qaeda. US intelligence officials who track the TTP and al Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region have told FDD’s Long War Journal that Sajna remains a close ally of al Qaeda to this day.
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