Hakeemullah Mehsud, left. AFP photo.
The leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was targeted by the US in an airstrike in the tribal areas survived but may have been wounded.
US intelligence officials believe Hakeemullah Mehsud escaped the airstrike that killed 12 Taliban and foreign fighters. Two Arabs and several Uzbek fighters were among those reported killed.
Hakeemullah may have been wounded, according to reports in the Pakistani press. BBC Urdu reported that Hakeemullah was treated for a head wound.
“All indications are that Hakeemullah survived the airstrike,” A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. Officials would not comment on reports that Hakeemullah was wounded.
The Pakistani Taliban have denied their leader was killed or even wounded in the strike, but confirmed he was in the town when the strike took place.
“Hakeemullah is alive and safe,” Tariq Azam, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan told AFP. “I met with him last night, there was not even a scratch on him. He left the place (of the strike) 40 or 60 minutes beforehand.”
The US is actively hunting Hakeemullah, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Efforts have increased after he appeared on a martyrdom video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA operatives and a Jordanian intelligence officer across the border in Khost province, Afghanistan.
The US has conducted seven strikes using the unmanned Predator and Reaper aircraft in Pakistan’s tribal areas since the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost on Dec. 30, 2009.
Hakeemullah Mehsud (left), the Leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. and Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi (right), the suicide bomber who carried out the attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan.