Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud, who carried a $ 5 million (Rs 24 crore) US bounty on his head, died in a missile attack on Wednesday that also killed his wife and some of his bodyguards, said the government on Friday. Mehsud's life and times
“He has been taken out,” said Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, adding intelligence reports stated
missiles fired from a US drone — a pilotless plane — killed Mehsud in Waziristan .
But he said the government would be able to confirm it “hundred per cent” only after ground-level verification. Even the US refused to confirm it late on Friday evening; a White House spokesperson said there have been reports.
Mehsud was behind the attack on the Lahore police academy in March and many suicide attacks.
He was also blamed for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. But he always denied it.
The famously camera-shy commander declared himself leader of the Pakistan Taliban, a grouping of around 13 factions in the northwest, in late 2007 and his fighters set off a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan went on high alert on Friday soon after the first reports of his death. Officials, who refused to be identified, said they were preparing for reprisal attacks from the Taliban rattled by Mehsud’s death, despite the uncertainty.
Everyone was being cautious because Taliban leaders have resurfaced in the past after reports of their death. One view was that if Mehsud was indeed dead regular Taliban spokesmen were unlikely to confirm until a successor was chosen.
But a Tehrik-e-Taliban leader Kifayatullah confirmed Mehsud was dead and said a shoora (council) was in session to choose his successor. The frontrunners included Hakimullah Mehsud, Wali Rehman and Azmatullah Mehsud.
A Waziristan tribesman, who spoke on condition his name not be used, said Mehsud had been at his father-in-law's house being treated for kidney pain, and had been put on a drip by a doctor, when the missile struck.
The tribesman claimed he attended the Taliban chief's funeral. He is said to have been buried in Nargosey, a tiny settlement about 1 km from the site of the attack. Other sources identified the village as Nawazai.