ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- A deputy Pakistani Taliban commander made independent claims to the new leadership of the group amid growing disarray within its ranks.
Military airstrikes believed to be from U.S. aerial drones struck a village in South Waziristan on Aug. 5, killing a wife of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud along with his bodyguards and several brothers.
U.S. and Pakistani officials say they believed Mehsud was killed in the attacks but were awaiting official confirmation on the ground before verifying the reports.
Without physical evidence, U.S. counterintelligence officials said verification of the death was officially unconfirmed. While the death was a setback for the Pakistani Taliban, it was not expected to be a major blow for the group.
Faqir Mohammed, deputy chief for the Pakistani Taliban who had earlier said Mehsud was killed, has made an independent claim to the leadership, the Times of India reports.
Mohammed was appointed as the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella organization in the western tribal areas of Pakistan, when the group formed in 2007.
The self-appointed leader, the Times reports, did not consult Taliban councils before the declaration.
"Being deputy leader of the (Pakistani Taliban), I have the right to replace Baitullah when he is unable to work," he said.
Taliban officials have claimed Mehsud is alive, but his health prevents him from leading.