Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Khalid Balti, former spokesperson for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, was killed in Nangarhar province.

Karachi, Pakistan – A senior leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban or TTP) has been killed in eastern Afghanistan, Pakistani security officials say, as a peace talks process between the armed group and the government comes to a standstill.

Khalid Balti, also known as de guerre Muhammad Khorasani when he served as the group’s spokesman, was killed in Nangarhar province, a security source told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the issue.

“It is clear that the person who was killed is Khalid Balti,” the official said, while also confirming that the killing took place in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, along the border with Pakistan.

When asked about the circumstances of the murder, he said, “We’re trying to get that information.”

Local media in Pakistan reported that Balti was shot dead by unidentified gunmen, but the source could not confirm those reports.

In a statement, the Pakistan Taliban, said “investigations are underway” into reports that Balti was killed.

“It must be remembered that Mufti Khalid Balti did not currently have any responsibilities. [the Pakistan Taliban], ”Reads the statement.

Balti’s alias Muhammad Khorasani has become a nickname for every successive Pakistani Taliban spokesman, and the group explained that the current spokesman is “alive and well”.

Balti, who is reportedly in his late 40s, hails from the northern Pakistani region of Gilgit-Baltistan and took over in 2014 as Pakistani Taliban spokesman from Sheikh Maqbool – who went under the alias Shahidullah Shahid.

That year, the Pakistani army launched a security operation against the Pakistani Taliban at its former headquarters and fortress of North Waziristan, displacing the group and many of its fighters in eastern Afghanistan.

The Pakistani security source described Balti as a “key leader” of the Pakistani Taliban, which contradicted the armed group’s allegations.

It is unclear what, if any, operational role Balti recently played with the Pakistani Taliban, after he was released from the Afghan government’s detention by the Afghan Taliban when the group took control of Kabul in August.

Last month, a month-long ceasefire between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban ended without renewal, as an emerging peace process – mediated by the Afghan Taliban – apparently came to a standstill.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed that the Pakistani government has renounced its promises to release Pakistani Taliban prisoners and to halt security attacks on TTP shelters.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweeted @AsadHashim.

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