|TTP fighters train in South Waziristan|
According to the Reuters account, the group of three senior tribal journalists met with Shamim Mahsud, the "deputy commander" of the TTP at his secret base in the mountains close to the border with Afghanistan.
According to an updated report by Ishtiaq Mahsud of AP, the reporters had been invited to meet with Hakimullah Mahsud, leader of the TTP, but he had cancelled, with his aides saying he had had to meet a delegation of Afghan Taliban elders who had arrived from across the border. This report again refers to and quotes from Shamim Mahsud, now calling him the "operational commander" of the TTP.
But a third report, from Sailab Mehsud in the Dawn newspaper, differs yet again. This says that the journalists met with Shamim Mahsud, who Sailab describes (correctly) as "the key operational commander and chief of Laddah sub-division chapter of TTP". However, he adds that "The journalists were invited to meet commander Waliur Rehman, Emir of South Waziristan Taliban, but he was busy in meetings with some Taliban delegations from Afghanistan and other areas of Pakistan. Then they had to meet Shamim Mehsud."
Confused? You should be. There is a big difference between meeting Hakimullah in South Waziristan and meeting Waliur Rahman.
It may help to know that Shamim Mahsud and Waliur Rahman, his emir, are not exactly close to Hakimullah Mahsud and the rest of the leadership of the TTP. For a time there was a blood feud between Shamim and Qari Hussein, Hakimullah's deputy, over who had the right to train suicide bombers. You can read more about that in an interesting article published by the FATA Research Centre. The fact that Shamim seems to have facilitated this unusual trip for journalists is significant, simply for this fact alone. It suggests that Shamim is attempting to reassert Waliur Rahman's claim to leadership of the TTP, perhaps because the South Waziristan faction of the group has been excluded from peace talks rumoured to have been held recently with the government.
Either way, perhaps our main foreign news agencies, on whom we rely for important information, can try a little harder to get basic information right first time.