ISLAMABAD: The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Wednesday confirmed the death of a central commander whose killing in eastern Afghanistan was revealed earlier this week.
Khalid Balti, also known by the nom de guerre Muhammad Khorasani when he served as the spokesperson of the proscribed militant group, was killed in Nangarhar province on January 9 (Sunday), Pakistan Today reported.
In a statement issued January 10, a spokesperson for the Afghanistan-based group said it was investigating the reports.
Today, the spokesperson, who also shares the Muhammad Khorasani alias with Balti, confirmed his predecessor’s death in a statement but offered no further details.
A security official from Pakistan — who confirmed Balti’s killing on Monday — had said Balti, about 50, was the incumbent group spokesperson. But, TTP claimed he was not holding any position at the time of his killing.
The spokesperson said the group “lost a religious scholar and expert of political affairs”, terming it a “huge loss” for the militants.
His statement further said Balti joined the group when he migrated in 2011 and had been active since. He was arrested in 2015 and remained imprisoned until last year before being killed.
Balti, a non-Pashtun Taliban leader, was freed following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. Since then, he lived in the Nangarhar and Kunar region, where most of the TTP members are believed to be hiding.
Radio Free Europe, quoting a local source in the region, reported Balti had gone missing two days before his body was found.
Citing a militant source, Dawn said Balti’s funeral was held in the eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan on Tuesday and he was buried there.
He had been making efforts for uniting various factions of the group and planning attacks with group chief Noor Wali Mehsud. He had recently hinted at carrying out terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.
The killing came at a time when the TTP has increased its attacks in Pakistan. A month-long cease-fire with Pakistan ended on December 9 and since then the group has resumed attacks on the security forces.