Taliban sows doubt over Mehsud’s death

ISLAMABAD: A Taliban spokesman and a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud claimed today that the Pakistani Taliban chief was not killed by

a CIA missile strike, contradicting another aide who confirmed Mehsud’s death a day earlier.

The claims, made in calls to Pakistani and international media organisations, could undermine the growing confidence among US and Pakistani officials that Mehsud died. They also could be tactical manoeuvers to prevent defections as the Taliban leadership searches for a successor to Mehsud or even to delay a decision on naming an heir.

Mehsud deputy, Hakim-ullah, and Taliban spokes-man Maulvi Umar each called two separate Associated Press reporters

today to say that Mehsud was alive. They pledged evidence of his continued existence would be brought forth in the coming days. The reports of his death “are just to discourage Taliban,” Umar said.