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Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud dead, tribesmen report

Article published on the 2009-08-07 Latest update 2009-08-07 09:08 TU

Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region in 2008(Photo: Reuters)

Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region in 2008
(Photo: Reuters)

Tribesmen in Pakistan's Waziristan region say that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud is dead, killed along with one of his wives in a US drone strike on Wednesday. Security officials say they believe the reports but the government has yet to confirm it.

"Information is coming in from that area that he is dead," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Geo TV, adding that Mehsud's wife, his brother and seven guards were also killed.

But Malik said he was unable to confirm the reports.  

The drone attack took place in Zangra village. It hit the home of the father of his second wife and Mehsud is said to have been visiting the upper floors of the house at the time.

Local tribesmen say that the Taliban leader is dead and he is reported to have been buried in Nigosa.

Some anonymous officials told Dawn newspaper that they were 95 per cent sure that the information is true. The paper says that Mehsud's vehicle is known to have been destroyed but warns that previous reports of other most-wanted Islamists have sometimes proved to be false.

The Taliban have called a meeting in another village and created a no-go area around it. Although this is standard procedure, Dawn reports that the area is larger than usual. Taliban representatives say that an important announcement will be made later, leading to speculation that a successor to Mehsud will be appointed.

A formal announcement is being withheld until a consensus candidate has been found, the paper says, adding that "the names of Hakimullah Mehsud, Azmatullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Mehsud are already being mentioned".

Mehsud was a key target both for the US and for Pakistan's government. Islamabad has accused him of organising the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, although there is growing scepticism in Pakistan about the claim.

"I warn Baitullah Mehsud's group to end terrorism," Interior Minister Malik said on Friday. "It is a targeted operation against Baitullah Mehsud and it will continue until the group is eliminated."

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