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New chief of Pak Taliban may be dead

world Updated: Oct 03, 2009 15:11 IST
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US intelligence agencies believe the newly named leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, might have been killed in a gunfight with a rival faction weeks ago.

Militants tapped Hakimullah to replace the group's previous leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by a missile fired from a CIA-piloted drone aircraft in his South Waziristan stronghold on the Afghan border August 5.

Hakimullah's death, which officials said has yet to be confirmed definitively, would be another setback for the group, the Nation reported on Saturday.

"We're pretty clear that we think he's dead," a US defence official said of Hakimullah. A counterterrorism official said, "While there's no final confirmation of his death, it's a distinct possibility."

The officials, who spoke about the intelligence on condition of anonymity, said Hakimullah was believed to have been shot weeks ago during a clash with a rival group in South Waziristan. But US intelligence agencies are still reviewing information to make a final call.