Taliban Commander Behind the Attack on Malala Yousafzai Gets a Promotion

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Mullah Fazlullah, a hard-line Taliban commander notorious for ordering the attack on teenage activist Malala Yousafzai will take over as the head of the Taliban in Pakistan. Fazlullah, also known for ordering public beatings and beheadings for those who defied the strict Islamic law in his region, was picked to replace Hakimullah Mehsud after he was killed in a drone strike last Friday. Accusing Pakistan of working with the U.S. on the strike, the Taliban also decided against peace talks with the country's government on Thursday. 

Fazlullah has a nickname: "Radio Mullah." It comes from his passionate, militant radio broadcasts well known in the Swat Valley. But internationally he is no doubt best known as the man widely believed to be behind the attack on Yousafzai that nearly killed her. Fazlullah told Reuters in a report following the attach, in which the leader promised to kill the teenager's father after failing to kill her. Of the decision to take violence against the activist, who spoke out against restrictions of women's education, a spokesperson for Fazlullah said “We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop (speaking against us).” 

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A "hard-line" Taliban operative is no rare thing among the movement, but it should be noted that Fazlullah's extremism is even a bit on the edges of a scale calibrated to the Taliban. The Guardian explains: 

He led efforts to seize control his native Swat, a picturesque region a few hours drive north of Islamabad, and ran a shadow government from 2007 until the Pakistani military reasserted control in 2009. He imposed strict Islamic law on the residents and tasked his men to burn down music shops and prevent barbers from cutting beards.

After the Pakistani military regained control of the region, Fazlullah fled to Afghanistan, where he's continued to order attacks. He's probably in his early '30s. His selection to lead the group is a slight surprise to some, however: Most leaders are from the Mehsud clan — Fazlullah is now the first outsider to take charge

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.