Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who is said to be responsible for the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was killed in a drone attack in Waziristan on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi confirmed on Friday.
"He (Mehsud) has been taken out," Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. He however said that the government was doing ground verification so as "to confirm 100 percent", Dawn reported on Friday. (Map of South Waziristan where Mehsud was killed View Larger Map)
Qureshi said intelligence sources have confirmed Mehsud's death. Intelligence officials said Mehsud was killed in a missile strike Wednesday on the home of his father-in-law and that his body was buried in the village of Nardusai in South Waziristan, not far from the site of the strike, the report said.
One official said he had seen a classified intelligence report stating Mehsud was dead and buried, but that agents had not seen the body as the area was under Taliban control.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik earlier said he could confirm the death of Mehsud's wife but not of the Taliban leader himself, although information pointed in that direction.
"I can confirm to the extent that his wife is dead, and probably one of his brothers, but we do not have any...evidence that he's dead," Malik was quoted as saying.
He added: "Yes, lot of information is pouring in from that area that he's dead, but I'm unable to confirm unless I have solid evidence."
Dawn quoted a local tribesman as saying that Mehsud had been at his father-in-law's house being treated for kidney pain, and had been put on a drip by a doctor, when the missile struck. The tribesman claimed he attended the Taliban chief's funeral.
Mehsud's funeral was performed on Wednesday afternoon, a Taliban leader told DPA.
"Right now, a meeting of our 'shura' (an advisory council of Mehsud's group) is being held in Sararogha to choose his successor," the aide said.
The missile strike, believed to have been carried out by a US unmanned 'drone' aircraft, struck the house of one of Mehsud's two fathers-in-law in South Waziristan, a tribal region near the Afghan border and a known hub of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
The strike came as Pakistani security forces were gearing up for a major offensive against Mehsud, who is blamed for dozens of terrorist attacks across the country and had been declared Pakistan's enemy number one.
Meanwhile, the US government has begun an investigation into whether Mehsud was killed, senior US officials have said.
US officials on Thursday said both US and Pakistani teams were investigating the possibility, Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
"There is reason to believe that reports of his death may be true, but they can't be confirmed," a US official was quoted as saying.
Mehsud was considered one of the most wanted Islamist extremists in Pakistan's western tribal regions, leading a large army of militants that have fought US and Pakistani forces on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The US and Pakistan will conduct DNA testing on the body believed to be Mehsud's, using genetic samples taken from members of Mehsud's family, the report said.
Results could take anywhere from days to weeks.