Baitullah Mehsud is dead, says Pakistani Taliban deputy


Baitullah Mehsud, the feared leader of the Pakistan Taliban, is believed to have been killed during the Aug. 5 airstrike in South Waziristan.

Faqir Mohammed, the deputy leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the commander of the Bajaur Taliban, told Sky News that Baitullah was killed in a strike that also killed Baitullah's second wife.

An aide to Baitullah identified as Kafayatullah, as well as another unidentified Taliban leader in South Waziristan, also said that Baitullah had been killed in the attack.

"I confirm that Baitullah Mehsud and his wife died in the American missile attack in South Waziristan," Kafayatullah told the Associated Press late last night.

Baitullah was said to have been buried near the village of Nardusai. "Some who had reportedly seen his body said that it had been half-destroyed by the blast," the BBC stated.

Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, said intelligence believes that Baitullah was killed in Wednesday's strike but the government wants to confirm the reports. US intelligence officials also believe that Baitullah was killed.

Reports indicate Baitullah was visiting a compound owned by Ikramuddin Mehsud, Baitullah's father-in-law, in the village of Zanghra in the mountains near Baitullah's home town of Makeen. The airstrike also reportedly killed one Baitullah's two brothers and seven of Baitullah's bodyguards.

US intelligence sources contacted by The Long War Journal last evening had initially believed Baitullah survived the attack.

A search for Baitullah's successor

The Pakistani Taliban is reported to be meeting to appoint Baitullah's successor.

Possible successors to Baitullah include his cousins Hakeemullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain Mehsud, and Waliur Rahman, military commander Azmatullah Mehsud, and North Waziristan leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.

Hakeemullah directs Taliban operations in Arakzai, Kurram, and Khyber. He has been behind the attacks against NATO convoys moving through Peshawar. More than 700 NATO vehicles and containers have been destroyed in these attacks over the past eight months.

Qari Hussain is a feared military commander in South Waziristan. He is notorious for training children to become suicide bombers.

Hafiz Gul Bahadar is also a candidate to take over the Pakistani Taliban in the event of Baitullah's death. Bahadar is widely respected in Taliban circles and has close links to the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as to al Qaeda.

Waliur Rahman is a cousin of Baitullah and serves as a deputy military commander in South Waziristan. Azmatullah Mehsud is also a military leader in South Waziristan.

Background on Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan's most powerful Taliban commander

Baitullah is the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the unified command of scores of local Taliban fighters throughout the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas abutting Afghanistan. He has also allied with North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and South Waziristan leader Mullah Nazir to form the Council of United Mujahideen. The group has pledged its support to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and overall Taliban commander Mullah Omar, and has vowed to battle the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the US.

Based out of South Waziristan, Baitullah has become the most prominent Taliban leader in Pakistan. He commands tens of thousands of well-trained fighters, who conduct suicide and conventional attacks against Pakistani, Coalition, and Afghan forces. Since 2004, Baitullah's fighters have defeated the Pakistani Army in several engagements. In January 2008, the Pakistani Army agreed to a cease fire after abruptly ending an operation 10 days into a battle with Baitullah. He has been implicated in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto shortly after her return from exile in late 2007.

Baitullah is closely allied with bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Al Qaeda shelters in Baitullah's tribal areas and maintains scores of training camps and safe houses in the region.

Baitullah has openly stated his intentions to conduct attacks against the United States and the West. He "poses a clear threat to American persons and interests in the region," the State Department said earlier this year, when it offered up to $5 million dollars for information leading to his location or capture.



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READER COMMENTS: "Baitullah Mehsud is dead, says Pakistani Taliban deputy "

Posted by C. Jordan at August 7, 2009 9:44 AM ET:

Fantastic work, everyone who made this possible.
My only question is...
Who's next?

Posted by Render at August 7, 2009 10:35 AM ET:

"Half destroyed."

Now that's accuracy.

BULLS
EYE,
R

Posted by G-Shock at August 7, 2009 10:59 AM ET:


Seems like he got his 72's.

Posted by chatiii at August 7, 2009 11:12 AM ET:

ive seen news reports on al jazeera showing a taliban commander confirming his death.....so its true but how effective will this be? Because baitullahs primary target was pakistan and nearly all his resources were put into fighting the pak army, NOT THE NATO FORCES. and now a sucessor of his will probably be one of the 'pakistan friendly taliban leaders' such as nazir or bahadaur.........and when this happens, the focus and efforts of the pakistani taliban will shift to nato forces in afghanistan which basically means a lot more troops being killed, so i dont know why u guys are over the moon about the situation. And plus, the pakistan army stated that they are only going after baitullah himself and NOT the taliban group as a whole (as the taliban has regional and strategic importance to them), so according to this, it seems like pakistan will halt further operations in South Waziristan - to the dismay of america

Posted by Neo at August 7, 2009 11:13 AM ET:

Will the Taliban lash out against Pakistan, remain on the same path, or direct their efforts against the Americans in Afghanistan? I could see this going in a number of directions. Any plans for the quick overthrow of Pakistan are long gone. I doubt this directly decreases the strength of the Taliban in the short term. They remain a strong and entrenched force in the mountains, but their movement has lost a good deal of its broader support and momentum within the Pakistani population at large. The loss of leadership also suggests vulnerability and futility at a time when the Pakistani public has grown weary of the Taliban.

Funny thing about this war, I've never really seen a clear way for us to win it, but I've seen a number of ways the Taliban can lose it. Between now and this time next year we will see if the Taliban can regain momentum, otherwise it has become a stalemate where neither side has a clear way to meet its objectives.

Posted by Tommy at August 7, 2009 11:17 AM ET:

Fantastic!

I hope we have plans to bomb their succession shura today.

Posted by jayc at August 7, 2009 11:22 AM ET:

A little tongue-in-cheek observation for you guys: Finally, Uncle Sam is watching our tax dollars. He spent 66 thousand on a Hellfire missile to keep from ponying up 5 million reward money. What a bargain! Who's next?

Posted by Rhyno327 at August 7, 2009 12:08 PM ET:

No, they want us to THINK he's dead..but my guess he is alive and living in fear. Deception, so we think he's gone. I don't believe he is dead. NO.

Posted by Marz at August 7, 2009 12:21 PM ET:

Only time will tell the true impact of Baitullah's death (assuming he really is dead) but it may make Pakistan's job of asserting control in the areas around S Waziristan easier. It may not too - depending on how effective his organization responds and the decisions Pakistan makes regarding the Taliban. It is an opportunity for Pakistan to make advances and the Taliban in S Waziristan to make mistakes.

Still at the end of the day, Pakistan and Afghanistan are both better off with Baitullah's death.

Posted by Carlos at August 7, 2009 12:25 PM ET:

YES

If indeed true, it's a good day for mankind.

Posted by Cordell at August 7, 2009 1:24 PM ET:

Hopefully, the Taliban will replace Baitullah with a psychopath like Qari Hussain Mehsud, the recruiter of children for suicide bombings. In Iraq, after the U.S. killed Zarqawi in a similar strike, AQI replaced its leader with Masri. Not only did Masri lack Zarqawi's charisma, but his paranoia and psychopathy also sowed the seeds for AQI's downfall as he directed assassinations against AQI rivals and increasing attacks against innocent Iraqis. This, in turn, produced chaos and dissension in AQI ranks and prompted Iraqi Sunnis to turn against the group.

Posted by Neo at August 7, 2009 1:34 PM ET:

Rhyno327

"No, they want us to THINK he's dead..but my guess he is alive and living in fear."

It's always a possibility that for whatever reason they have decided to hide Baitullah Mehsud. If so, it's problematic for the Taliban. Baitullah Mehsud is the face of the uprising against/within Pakistan. Without him the cause to overthrow the Pakistani government gets pushed back even farther.

Posted by KW64 at August 7, 2009 1:42 PM ET:

Yes, this MAY cause Pakistan to avoid an invasion of Waziristan and it may lead to more Taliban activity in Afghanistan as a new leader could be less focused on Pakistan's government; but it may also discourage men from joining up with the Taliban. How do you get ahead if every head loses his life. Charismatic leaders draw recruits and hold onto existing followers. Killing charismatic leaders can diminish both recruitment and retention of forces. Movements often die with their leaders.

In any case, now that we have more forces in Afghanistan, I would rather have the Taliban attack there than continue their campaign to cut our supply lines in Pakistan.

Posted by JT at August 7, 2009 1:45 PM ET:

If the Taliban higher-ups are having a multiple day meeting in and around a known location (Nigosa?), tonight might result in a couple of successor wannabes being targeted. Depending on the nature and location of the meeting(s), this could be a time for the MOAB.

Posted by Tyler at August 7, 2009 2:14 PM ET:

Goodnight sweetheart.

Posted by Happy Boom at August 7, 2009 4:13 PM ET:

Baitullah "House of Pain" Mehsud is KIA it seems

Baitullah = House of God

Well, now it's more like House of Pain.

I read his body was apparently in half. Nice...

Looks like he felt the fire of Hell/hellfire up the Right end at last! Now he won't have to use RPG's!

Posted by My2cents at August 7, 2009 9:22 PM ET:

The Taliban leaders are meeting to select his successor. Hopefully we are tracking a couple of them and can arrange a suitable interuption to their deliberations.

Posted by Mehsud at August 7, 2009 10:00 PM ET:

This is actually not good news. Baitullah was pain for Pak policy of using taliban, let as strategic depth. Now that he is gone, pak will be back to its old game.

Posted by Rhyno327 at August 8, 2009 11:13 AM ET:

Would be nice if we can "drop" in on thier little party..