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Mehsud dead, reports PTV

world Updated: Jan 31, 2010 17:12 IST
PTI
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Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud has died due to injuries sustained in a US drone attack, the state-run television reported on Sunday, though the government said there was "no verifiable information" about his death.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief had died in the home of his father-in-law due to wounds sustained in a drone strike earlier this month, PTV quoted local sources in Aurakzai tribal region as saying.

The channel also reported that Mehsud was buried in Mamoonzai area of Aurakzai Agency.

However, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that the government had "no verifiable information" to confirm Mehsud's death.

The Inter-Services Public Relations too said there was no confirmation of the militant commander's death.

"The local population and tribal elders are saying Mehsud is dead. We have no verifiable information to confirm he is dead. I am unable to officially confirm unless I have some verifiable information," Malik said.

He noted that the PTV correspondent too had quoted local sources.

Reports have been doing the rounds, particularly in Pakistan's tribal belt, over the past few days that Mehsud was seriously injured in a US drone attack in Shaktoi area of North Waziristan on January 14.

The Taliban have denied these reports and said Mehsud was at an undisclosed location.

Malik said operations by the army had broken the back of the Taliban, "hurt their capacity" and "destroyed their system and centres where they trained suicide bombers."

The army had also destroyed Taliban bases and ammunition depots, he said.

"If Mehsud is dead, it is a setback (for the Taliban). There are still pockets of Taliban who are reacting, like the suicide attack in Bajaur Agency (yesterday)," Malik said.

He said the security forces had improved the gathering of real-time intelligence and were now capable of handling any retaliation by the militants.

Though the Taliban had approached the government several times for talks, the administration had "no intention to hold a dialogue with them unless they lay down weapons," he said.

"It has been our condition from day one – lay down your weapons and then hold talks. This is our firm resolve and wherever the writ of the government is challenged, we will take action against them. We have to free Pakistan of this cancer and we will remove it by the roots," Malik said.