DERA ISMAIL KHAN/WANA, Pakistan - Pakistani Taliban fighters secretly buried their leader early on Saturday after he was killed by a US drone aircraft and quickly moved to replace him while vowing a wave of suicide bombs in revenge.
The Pakistani government denounced the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud as a U.S bid to derail planned peace talks and some politicians demanded that US military supply lines into Afghanistan be blocked in response.
Mehsud, who had a $5 million US bounty on his head, and three others were killed on Friday in the militant stronghold of Miranshah in northwest Pakistan, Pakistani security officials and militants said.
Mehsud's vehicle was hit after he attended a meeting of Taliban leaders, a Pakistani Taliban fighter said, adding Mehsud's body was "damaged but recognisable". His bodyguard and driver were also killed.
He was secretly buried under cover of darkness in the early hours by a few companions amid fears that his funeral might be attacked by US drones, militants and Pakistani security sources said.
"Every drop of Hakimullah's blood will turn into a suicide bomber," said Azam Tariq, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman.
"America and their friends shouldn't be happy because we will take revenge for our martyr's blood."
Mehsud took over as leader of the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban in 2009. The group's two previous leaders were killed in attacks by US missile-firing drones.
Taliban commanders voted to replace him with the movement's number two, Khan Said, who is also known as Sajna.
Said is believed to have masterminded an attack on a jail in northwest Pakistan that freed nearly 400 prisoners in 2012 and a big attack on a Pakistani naval base.
But some commanders were unhappy with the choice and wanted more talks, several militants said, indicating divisions within the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of factions allied with the Afghan Taliban and battling the Pakistani state in the hope of imposing Islamist rule.
They have killed thousands of Pakistani civilians and numerous members of the security forces. They claimed the killing of an army general in September.
In Washington, two US officials also confirmed Mehsud's death in a CIA drone strike. A White House spokeswoman said he was not in a position to confirm the report but if true, it would be a serious loss for the Pakistani Taliban.
In 2010, Mehsud appeared in a farewell video with a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan.