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Taliban denies reports of Mehsud's death

world Updated: Feb 01, 2010 19:40 IST

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Describing them as "propaganda" spread by officials working under the influence of the West, the Pakistani Taliban on Monday denied reports that its chief Hakimullah Mehsud had died due to wounds sustained in a US drone attack.

Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq said in a statement that Hakimullah Mehsud is alive and dismissed reports in the Pakistani media about his death as false.

Reports about Mehsud's death are the work of intelligence agencies and media officials "who are under the influence of the West", Tariq said.

The Pakistan government is spreading such "propaganda" to divert the people's attention from core issues like shortages of sugar and flour, increase in oil prices and prolonged power cuts, the militant spokesman said.

The false claims made by authorities about Mehsud's death were "a ploy to give safe passage to US and NATO forces from Afghanistan", Tariq claimed.

It is Pakistan's "bad luck" that people who benefited from the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a controversial graft amnesty that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court, are at the helm of affairs, Tariq said in the statement that was delivered to journalists in North Waziristan Agency.

He was apparently referring to President Asif Ali Zardari, who benefited from the ordinance which was approved during the previous Pervez Musharraf's regime.