Pak checks reported death of Taliban chief
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani army today said it was investigating reports that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud died from injuries sustained in a US drone missile strike in mid-January.
The militant leader’s death would be an important success for both Pakistan, which has been battling the Pakistani Taliban, and the US, which blames Mehsud for a recent deadly bombing against the CIA in Afghanistan.
The army’s announcement came shortly after Pakistani state television, citing unnamed “official sources,” reported that Mehsud died in Orakzai, an area in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region where he was reportedly being treated for his injuries.
“We have these reports coming to us,” army spokesman Gen Athar Abbas told The Associated Press. “We are investigating whether it is true or wrong.” A tribal elder told the AP that he attended Mehsud’s funeral in the Mamuzai area of Orakzai on Thursday. He said Mehsud was buried in Mamuzai graveyard after he died at his in-laws’ home. The elder spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the Taliban.
Pakistani intelligence officials have said that Mehsud was targeted in a US drone strike in South Waziristan on January 14, triggering rumours that he had been injured or killed. The strike targeted a meeting of militant commanders in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan.
Mehsud issued two audio tapes after the strike denying
the rumours. But Pakistani intelligence officials told the AP
today that they have confirmation that the Taliban chief’s
legs and abdomen were wounded in the strike.
Mehsud, who has the reputation as a particularly ruthless militant, took over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban soon after Baitullah Mehsud’s death.