The Pakistani Taliban has confirmed the killing of its former spokesman who was once among the central leaders of the outlawed group.
The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said on January 13 that Khalid Balti, alias Mohammad Khurasani, had been killed over the weekend in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province.
The current TTP spokesman, who also goes by the name Mohammad Khurasani, did not provide details of Balti’s death but said it would be avenged.
No one has claimed responsibility for Balti's killing, which was reported earlier in the week but not confirmed.
Balti was a TTP commander and served as the group's spokesman from 2011 to 2015, when he was arrested in Afghanistan. He was freed after the Afghan Taliban seized power in mid-August.
Since then, he had lived in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, where most of the Pakistani Taliban are believed to be hiding.
The TTP is a separate militant group from the Afghan Taliban, which toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul in mid-August.
But Pakistan's militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan and the TTP follows the same hard-line Sunni Islam as its Afghan counterparts.
Pakistan conducted a massive military operation against the TTP across the northwestern regions in June 2014, forcing the group's militants and leadership to take refuge across the border in Afghanistan.
The TPP has been behind numerous attacks on Pakistani security forces and civilians over the last 14 years.
In November, the Pakistani government reached a monthlong cease-fire with the TTP that lapsed on December 9. Since then, the TTP has resumed attacks on Pakistani security forces.
The Taliban, who brokered the truce, have assured Islamabad that Afghan soil will not be used to carry out violence against Pakistan.