After weeks of denial, the Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday acknowledged for the first time that their chief Baitullah Mehsud has died of wounds sustained in a US drone strike in the country's lawless tribal belt.
Top militant commanders Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman confirmed that the Taliban leader is dead. The 35-year-old died of injuries sustained in the US missile attack in South Waziristan earlier this month, they told the BBC.
Hakimullah has been named as the successor to Mehsud, who was Pakistan's most feared militant and accused of masterminding scores of bombings and suicide attacks. Rehman said Hakimullah had his support as leader and denied reports of differences between the two commanders.
Mehsud was critically injured in the drone attack but died only on Sunday, Hakimullah claimed.
Pakistani and US officials have been saying for the past few weeks that they are certain Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack on his father-in-law's home in South Waziristan on August 5.
However, the Taliban had repeatedly denied reports of Mehsud's death despite announcing the appointment of Hakimullah as their new leader a few days ago.