New Tehrik-e-Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud surfaced on Monday and vowed to strike United States and Pakistani interests -- to avenge the killing of his slain leader Baitullah Mehsud and American drone attacks on the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
His appearance in front of a select group of reporters in the South Waziristan tribal area ended speculation over his reported death in a contest for leadership of the Pakistan Taliban, sparked by Baitullah's killing in a drone strike. Pakistani and US intelligence officials have been claiming he was killed in a clash with rivals in the wake of Baitullah's death.
He vowed to avenge Baitullah's killing by striking back at Pakistan and the US. Reports of Hakimullah's first public appearance, since he took over as head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, reached Islamabad hours after a suicide bomber struck a United Nations office, killing four persons.
Hakimullah met only five journalists from his Mehsud clan in South Waziristan, BBC reported. TV news channels reported the meeting was held at Sararogha, an area that has witnessed several drone attacks.
The clandestine meeting with the reporters on Sunday was held on the condition that it could be reported only on Monday. A few other journalists were invited but did not go for security reasons, the BBC reported.
Hakimullah was flanked by senior Taliban commanders Waliur Rehman and Qari Hussain, who is responsible for training suicide bombers. One of the journalists, who attended the meeting, said all the militant leaders appeared to be in good health.
There were speculations earlier that Hakimullah was engaged in a rivalry with Waliur Rehman. Hakimullah said he would retaliate against recent efforts by the US and Pakistani security forces to target senior Taliban figures.
Several senior militant commanders have been killed in recent drone attacks in the lawless tribal belt. Hakimullah's brother was killed in a clash with security forces last week.