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Taliban challenges Pakistan to prove Mehsud dead

world Updated: Aug 10, 2009 19:36 IST
Taliban commander

A top Taliban commander on Monday challenged Pakistan to prove warlord Baitullah Mehsud was dead, insisting Mehsud was alive and denying reports of a deadly shooting over succession.

Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy of Pakistan's Taliban chieftain Baitullah Mehsud, whom Pakistan believes killed in a US drone attack, made the comments in a telephone call to AFP.

On Saturday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Pakistan was investigating reports of a deadly shooting between loyalists of Hakimullah and a rival contender to replace Baitullah, in which one of the commanders was killed.

"Rehman Malik is propagating false information in the media -- using the media as toy. I am alive and prove I'm alive despite government claims that there was a shootout for Baitullah's succession," Hakimullah told AFP.

Although Pakistan said it believed Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in South Waziristan along with his wife on Wednesday, confusion has reigned and the government has stopping short of confirming his death.

Pakistani intelligence officials say he is dead, but members of the Taliban have told media outlets that he is still alive, albeit providing no evidence.

Hakimullah said only that Baitullah was "a bit sick."

"Amir sahib (Baitullah) is alive. He is healthy and he will come before the media soon. There is no succession. There is no shura (meeting)," he said.

"He (the interior minister) challenged us to prove amir sahib is alive. I'm proving I'm alive. Now the government should prove that amir sahib is dead," the commander said.

US national security advisor Jim Jones said on Sunday that the United States was "90 per cent" sure that Baitullah Mehsud had died in a US missile strike.