Hakimullah Mehsud calls media organisations, says he is alive
Two days after reports emerged that he had been killed in a shootout with a rival, Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud on Monday contacted media organisations to say that he was "alive". He also claimed that Baitullah was alive despite the contention of the Pakistan and US governments that they are now certain the Taliban chief was killed.world Updated: Aug 10, 2009 22:58 IST
Two days after reports emerged that he had been killed in a shootout with a rival, Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud on Monday contacted media organisations to say that he was "alive".
Hakimullah, one of several top Taliban commanders considered as contenders for leading the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan following the reported death of Baitullah Mehsud, telephoned Pakistani and foreign media organisations to deny reports of his death in fighting with rival Wali-ur-Rehman.
Talking to Geo News channel, Hakimullah said no scuffle had occurred between him and Rehman. He said he was "safe, hale and hearty".
He also claimed that Baitullah was alive despite the contention of the Pakistan and US governments that they are now certain the Taliban chief was killed in a Predator drone attack in South Waziristan on August 5.
Hakimullah said if Interior Minister Rehman Malik could not present any evidence regarding the killing of Baitullah, he would "table proofs to deny the reports regarding his death".
He said the Pakistani Taliban remained united despite the government's claims that there was infighting among militant factions.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Malik said the government intended to provide "conclusive proof" that Baitullah is dead. "All the credible intelligence I have from that area does finally confirm (his death)," Malik told BBC.
He said the government is working to obtain DNA evidence to establish that Baitullah had been killed. The government had earlier said it would be extremely difficult to get DNA proof of his death.
Malik also told reporters that authorities have obtained DNA from Baitullah's brother, who was killed a few months ago. However, observers said it would be difficult for the government to access Baitullah's body in the remote and hostile terrain of South Waziristan.
The Interior Minister has challenged the Taliban to prove that its leaders are still alive by getting them to make an appearance, but the militants have dismissed this as a ploy to lure them into the open.
Malik said operations against Taliban would continue until the last militant "is flushed out". He added that the militants had no option "except to get killed or surrender".
Malik also expressed concern about al-Qaeda moving in to fill any void in the Taliban ranks. "They are trying to find someone to install him as chief terrorist in the area," he said.