Officials, militants: Gunmen kill top leader in Pakistani Taliban

Published February 24, 2014

| Associated Press

Pakistani intelligence officials and militant commanders say gunmen have killed a top leader of the country's Taliban in a tribal region near Afghan border.

The four officials and two militants say Asmatullah Shaheen Bitani and three aides died in the Monday shooting in North Waziristan. Bitani's cousin also confirmed his death.

They all spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the media on record.

Bitani, who sat on the Pakistani Taliban's executive council, was appointed interim chief of the militant group after a suspected U.S. drone strike killed his former chief Hakimullah Mehsud last year.

He has since been replaced by another leader, Mullah Fazlullah.

The officials say it is not clear who killed Bitani. There was a government bounty of 10 million rupees ($95,000) on him.

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