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Rift within Pakistani Taliban prompts factions to splinter

The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), announced Wednesday a separation between the dominant Mehsud faction, led by Khan Said, and the weaker faction led by Maulana Fazlullah.

By
JC Finley
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) committee member and senior religious party leader Maulana Sami-ul-Haq (R) looks on as Special Assistant to Pakistan's prime minister Irfan Siddiqui (L) speaks during a joint press conference following their meeting at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Housen in Islamabad, Pakistan on February 6, 2014. (UPI/Sajjad ALi Qureshi)
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) committee member and senior religious party leader Maulana Sami-ul-Haq (R) looks on as Special Assistant to Pakistan's prime minister Irfan Siddiqui (L) speaks during a joint press conference following their meeting at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Housen in Islamabad, Pakistan on February 6, 2014. (UPI/Sajjad ALi Qureshi) | License Photo

ISLAMABAD, May 29 (UPI) -- The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), announced Wednesday during a rare news conference that it was splitting into two separate groups.

A Taliban spokesman for the dominant Mehsud faction, led by Khan Said, said it was cutting ties with chief Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah.

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The Mehsud faction, the spokesman said, considers Fazlullah's group too violent and unpredictable. Azam Tariq, Said's spokesman, explained, "The central leadership has gone into the hands of unseen forces, sectarian issues and extortion in the name of Taliban ... We have decided to go our own way."

Rancor within the Pakistani Taliban seems to have begun after Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike in November 2013. An ensuing power struggle caused the two main factions to turn against each other, sometimes violently.

The announced split comes as the Pakistani government continues to attempt a negotiated peace agreement with the Taliban. Said, the leader of the Mehsud faction, remains committed to the dialogue, his spokesman noted.

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