Hakeemullah Mehsud, left. AFP photo.
Pakistani intelligence officials believe that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and a close ally of al Qaeda, has been killed in the latest drone strike in North Waziristan. The report has not been confirmed by US officials.
Radio intercepts of discussions between Taliban fighters indicate that Hakeemullah was killed in the Jan. 12 airstrike that took place in the village of Dogga on the outskirts of Miramsham, the main town in North Waziristan. Six “militants,” including several “foreigners,” a term used to describe members of al Qaeda and allied terror groups, were reported killed in the strike.
“Some militants confirmed Mehsud was dead, and one criticized others for talking about the issue over the radio,” according to The Associated Press.
Two US intelligence officials involved in the program that targets al Qaeda and allied terror groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas said they were aware of the reports and are investigating.
Asimullah Mehsud, a spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has denied the reports of Hakeemullah’s death, The Associated Press reported.
Pakistani officials have claimed that Hakeemullah has been killed numerous times in the past several years. The most embarrassing claim took place in early 2010, when Pakistani officials, including the Interior Minister, claimed he was killed in a drone strike [for a timeline on the reporting of his ‘death,’ see LWJ report, Hakeemullah Mehsud — not dead yet]. A US military spokesman even said they believed Hakeemullah was either dead or incapacitated. Many Taliban leaders denied he was killed. Hakeemullah granted several phone interviews to deny the reports of his death, but the Pakistani government and the media ignored the information. The Long War Journal reported several times during the winter and spring of 2010 that the evidence of his death was inconsistent and he was very likely alive.
Hakeemullah resurfaced on May 2, 2010 in a video that was sent by a Taliban spokesman to The Long War Journal just hours after the failed Times Square bombing. In the video, Hakeemullah claimed credit for the attempted attack in the heart of New York City, and promised further attacks. His deputy, Qari Hussain Mehsud, who was also reported killed, also released an audiotape that confirmed he was alive.
Pakistani officials also claimed Hakeemullah was killed while clashing with Waliur Rahman Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan, in August 2009. The two were said to have killed each other in a gunfight while arguing over who should take control of the Taliban after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a Predator strike on Aug. 5, 2009. The reports of the “battle at the shura” were proven to be false when the two leaders later appeared in the media.