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Drone attack killed Pak Taliban chief

The death of Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban — or Pakistan’s Taliban — was confirmed on Sunday by state-run Pakistan Television (PTV).

world Updated: Feb 01, 2010 00:29 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

The death of Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban — or Pakistan’s Taliban — was confirmed on Sunday by state-run Pakistan Television (PTV).

But no official agency endorsed the news while the Taliban leadership denied it.

PTV said Mehsud had been injured in a suspected US drone attack, and that his death was confirmed. He has already been buried in his second wife’s natal village, it said.

Other media sources added that Mehsud had been hit in the throat, chest and foot during the attack, had been shifted to another location where a doctor was kidnapped to treat him. But the doctor failed to save him.

Two front-ranking Taliban leaders, Wali-ur-Rehman and Qari Hussain, are in the race to succeed Mehsud.

Speculation about Mehsud’s death first surfaced after a January 14 bombing by unmanned American spy planes in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan. Soon after, two audiotapes, purportedly with Mehsud’s voice, surfaced, claiming that he was very much alive.

“Hakimullah is still alive and safe. The purpose of stories regarding his death is to create differences among Taliban ranks, but such efforts will never succeed,” Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told a news agency by telephone from an unknown location on Sunday

Mehsud assumed leadership of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), after his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a US drone strike in August last year. (The TTP denied Baitullah Mehsud’s death too for weeks.)

Believed to be in his 30s, Hakimullah was considered more violent than his predecessor, but also quite media savvy.