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Hakimullah Mehsud dead, say Taliban sources

world Updated: Feb 09, 2010 22:50 IST

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The Pakistani Taliban confirmed on Tuesday that its chief Hakimullah Mehsud had died of injuries sustained in drone strike last month, ending weeks of speculation over his fate. Noor Jamal has been named the new acting leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Taliban sources based in the Aurakzai tribal region told a private TV channel that 28-year-old Mehsud was severely injured in the attack in Shaktoi area of North Waziristan Agency on Jan 14 and died recently near Multan city in Punjab province while being taken to Karachi for treatment, Online news agency reported.

His body was taken back to the tribal belt, the sources said.

However, there were also reports that Mehsud had died almost two weeks ago and was buried in his father-in-law's village in Aurakzai Agency.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Azam Tariq had been insisting that Mehsud is alive and at an undisclosed location.

According to the Taliban sources, commander Noor Jamal alias Maulana Toofan has been named the new chief of the Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistani and US security officials have been saying for the past two weeks that they were certain Mehsud had died of injuries sustained in a US drone attack.

Shortly after reports of Mehsud's death first emerged in mid-January, the Taliban issued two audio messages in which the dreaded commander claimed he was alive.

The US stepped up drone attacks targeting Mehsud after he was shown in a video with a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA operatives in an attack on a forward base in Khost province of Afghanistan.

Mehsud, born in Kotkai village of South Waziristan Agency and educated in a seminary, had fought against US forces in Afghanistan after the Taliban regime in Kabul was ousted in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

He later rose to prominence as the commander of thousands of Taliban fighters in the Kurram, Aurakzai and Khyber tribal regions.

Mehsud, who claimed responsibility for several audacious suicide attacks, including the one on the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, was made chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone attack in August last year.

The names of Wali-ur-Rehman, a close aide of Baitullah Mehsud as well as suicide bombing mastermind Qari Hussein are being mulled to take over the banned outfit.