US and Pakistani officials meeting on Sunday said they were heartened by signs of a rift between Pakistani Taliban factions after the apparent death of militant leader Baitullah Mehsud.
Mehsud was the overall head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a loose confederation of 13 factions. He is believed to have been killed in a US missile strike on August 5.
"I can say that since Baitullah Mehsud, there's confusion, there's disarray and there's a lot of reports of infighting within the TTP," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a joint news conference with Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Before arriving in Islamabad late on Saturday, Holbrooke told reporters travelling with him; "Baitullah Mehsud is gone and it looks like there is a struggle for succession among his commanders."
On Saturday night, fighters from a rival, less anti-government faction, led by Maulvi Nazir Wazir, were ambushed and 17 were killed. An intelligence official and a spokesman for Maulvi Nazir's group blamed the Mehsud group. “They were hiding behind the rocks and as soon as our people reached there, they opened fire,” said Shaheen Wazir, Nazir's spokesman.