PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), on Monday denied Muhammad Khorasani, the main spokesperson for the group had been killed, after security officials reported his death in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
The TTP is a separate movement from the Afghan Taliban and has fought for years to overthrow the government in Islamabad and rule with its own brand of Islamic Shariah law. Last month, the group declared an end to a month-long cease-fire arranged with the aid of the Afghan Taliban, accusing the Pakistan government of breaching terms including a prisoner release agreement and the formation of negotiating committees.
The head of the Pakistan army’s media wing said last week armed operations against the group had been relaunched since the end of the cease-fire.
On Monday, two security officials told Arab News the militant commander had been killed in Afghanistan but the TTP denied the news on Twitter.
Earlier on Monday, a security official told Arab News on condition of anonymity that Khurasani had been killed in an “internal fight” within the group. He gave no details of how the fight erupted or who else was involved.
“Muhammad Kursani (Khurasani), central spokesperson of TTP has been killed today in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan,” another security official privy to the development told Arab News, requesting anonymity. “His actual name was Khalid Bilti.”
“He was involved in killing innocent people of Pakistan and master minded many terrorist attacks on security forces of Pakistan,” he said. “He in collaboration with TTP Chief Noor Wali was planning to carry out terrorist activities in Pakistan.”
The second official did not disclose details of how Khorasani was killed.
The Pakistan army has not officially confirmed the killing but Pakistan state TV also said on Twitter the militant commander had been killed.
Khurasani, who is believed to be around 50 years old, was born Khalid Balti. He is believed to have fled to neighboring Afghanistan following the launch of a Pakistani military offensive codenamed Zarb-e-Azb in the North Waziristan tribal district in 2014.
Adnan Bitani, a senior journalist and security analyst in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which borders Afghanistan, said the death, if confirmed, would be a “huge setback” for the TTP.
“If the news of his killing is true then it will be a big blow to the banned outfit because he was among the founding leaders of the group,” he said.
Bitani said Khurasani has been a trusted friend of the late Qari Hussain, a top lieutenant in the TTP and the organizer of the group’s suicide bombing squads. Khurasani had received his education in Karachi and became the TTP spokesman in 2014. He had been detained by the Afghan Special Forces in 2018 but was freed soon after the Afghan Taliban, which is a separate but allied group with the TTP, took over Kabul last August.
Last year’s cease-fire between the TTP and the Pakistan government, which was signed with the possibility of extension if both parties agreed, was the latest in a series of attempts to broker a settlement to end a conflict that has killed thousands.
The Afghan Taliban’s shock overthrow of the Western-backed government last August gave peace talks fresh impetus but the TTP accused Islamabad of failing to respect the cease-fire agreement and called it off on December 10. It said the government had not released more than 100 prisoners as promised and or appointed negotiating teams to conduct talks. It also said security forces had carried out raids while the cease-fire was in force.