PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday confirmed the killing over the weekend in neighboring Afghanistan of the group's former spokesman and vowed to avenge the slaying.
The outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is also known as TTP, announced on Twitter the death of the man known as Mohammad Khurasani, which is an alias. His real name was Khalid Balti.
The confirmation comes days after Pakistani security officials said the former spokesman of the TTP had been shot and killed in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, the headquarters of the extremist Islamic State group’s regional affiliate. The TTP did not confirm the claim until Thursday.
The current TTP spokesman, who also goes by the name Mohammad Khurasani, said on Twitter that Balti was killed on Sunday while traveling. He said Balti's death was a great loss and would soon be avenged.
Balti was commander of the TTP and served as the group's spokesman from 2011 to 2015, when he was arrested in Afghanistan. He was freed after the Taliban seized power in mid-August. Their capture of Afghanistan has emboldened the TTP.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is an umbrella group and is a separate organization from the Afghan Taliban. In November, Pakistan announced a month-long cease-fire with the TTP. The group has been behind numerous attacks on security forces and civilians over the last 14 years.
The cease-fire ended on Dec. 9 and since then, the group has resumed attacks. The Taliban, who brokered the monthlong truce, have assured Islamabad that they will not allow TTP to use Afghan soil for violence in Pakistan.
Pakistani authorities say the talks with the TTP failed because they presented demands that were non-negotiable. The demands have not been publicly disclosed.
According to two Pakistani security officials, Balti was also a resident of Pakistan's northern Gilgit Baltistan region. He was planning terrorist attacks in Pakistan and was killed by unidentified assailants in Afghanistan, the officials said. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.
No one has claimed responsibility for Balti's killing.
TTP's chief Noor Wali and his fighters are believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.