ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's Taliban said Thursday that it will not participate in peace talks with the country's new government and will exact "revenge in the strongest way" after one of its top leaders was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike.
Confirming the death of Waliur Rehman, the second-ranking leader of the militant group, the Taliban's chief spokesman blamed Pakistan's government for not doing more to prevent CIA-launched drone strikes on Pakistani soil.
"The government has failed to stop drone strikes, so we decided to end any talks with the government," Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesman, said in a phone interview. "Our attacks in Pakistan will continue."
U.S. officials had blamed Rehman, who was the chief deputy to Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, for a series of bloody cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO personnel in Afghanistan, including a 2009 assault that killed seven Americans at a CIA facility.
In a move that appeared to test President Obama's revised policy for the use of unmanned drones, two missiles were fired into a house Wednesday in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region. Rehman was killed along with at least three other militants.
Pakistan's government condemned the strike, but it comes less than a week before the swearing-in of a national assembly that is expected to install Nawaz Sharif as prime minister. Sharif, who twice held the post in the 1990s, campaigned against continued U.S. drone strikes in the May 11 elections, as did numerous politicians.
Last week, as he prepared to reassume power, Sharif signaled that he may be willing to engage the Taliban in peace talks after years of violence that has claimed thousands of civilian lives. Taliban officials had also appeared receptive to talks, although many analysts were skeptical they could result in a lasting peace.
Ehsan said Thursday that not only would there be no talks, but that the Taliban would step up its attacks to avenge Rehman's death.
Within hours of the killing, Pakistani Taliban officials signaled that Khan Said, thought to be in his mid-30s, would be the group's new second-in command. Reuters and other media outlets reported that Said had helped plan a 2011 attack on a Pakistani navy base that killed 18 people, as well as a 2012 jail break that freed hundreds of militants.