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Pakistan Taliban head ‘likely dead’
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 1387 days ago | Saturday, 8th August , 2009 , 02:29 [am] | International
|.|| Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, is likely to have been killed, along with his wife and bodyguards, in a missile attack, Pakistani officials have said.
The country’s interior minister said on Friday that Mehsud was suspected to have been killed earlier this week, but that there was no material
Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, is likely to have been killed, along with his wife and bodyguards, in a missile attack, Pakistani officials have said.
The country’s interior minister said on Friday that Mehsud was suspected to have been killed earlier this week, but that there was no material confirmation of his death.
“We suspect he was killed in the missile strike,” Malik was reported by the Reuters news agency as saying. “But we don’t have material evidence to confirm it.”
Washington, which has put a $5m bounty on Mehsud’s head, also refused to confirm reports of the Taliban leader’s death.
“We’ve seen reports that Baitullah Mehsud has been killed. We cannot confirm whether he is dead,” Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said.
But he added that: “There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead.”
There have been reports in the past of Mehsud’s death which have proven false, but recently speculation has grown that Mehsud was killed in a missile attack by US drones on Tuesday morning on the village of Makeen in South Waziristan.
Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Islamabad, said: “We’re told that there is now confirmation coming even from the political agent who would be the main administrator for the South Waziristan region – reports that he had informed the interior ministry that Meshud was indeed killed in that alleged US drone attack.”
Several intelligence officials were reported as saying Mehsud had been killed in the raid and his body burried in Nargosey, a tiny settlement about 1km from the site of the reported attack.
The missile raid reportedly destroyed the home of Akramud Din, Mehsud’s father-in-law.
But there has been no physical evidence of his death as Pakistani officials say it is impossible to enter the Taliban controlled area in the tribal lands of South Waziristan.
Malik said that intelligence suggested people were mourning in the area where Mehsud was tracked and targeted and that Taliban leaders were meeting somewhere in South Waziristan to decide on Mehsud’s successor.
Mehsud’s death would be a coup for Pakistan, which has battled his fighters since he proclaimed himself head of the Pakistani Taliban in 2007.
Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier and former chief of security in the tribal areas, said Mehsud’s death would be “quite a setback” for the Taliban.
“He is the one man who really organised the Taliban, kept unity among them and really forwarded the agenda with a lot of … strategic thinking,” Shah said.
But analysts doubt that Mehsud’s death, should it prove true, will help Western troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan or bring an end to Taliban-related violence in Pakistan.
Karin von Hippel, a security expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said: “What happens … is another comes in and takes their place pretty quickly.”
The US and Pakistan have said Mehsud is linked to al-Qaeda and has been involved in dozens of suicide attacks, beheadings and assassinations, including the killing of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister.
His estimated 10,000-20,000 fighters have been blamed for a wave of suicide attacks inside Pakistan and on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.aljazeera, Voice of a Nation