Pakistani Taliban confirm death of deputy emir in drone strike


Hakeemullah-Waliur-Rehman.jpg

Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, before the Pakistani Army launched the South Waziristan offensive.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan's top spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan, confirmed today that Waliur Rehman, the group's deputy leader and emir in South Waziristan, was killed in a US drone strike yesterday. The Taliban vowed to avenge his death and also withdrew the prospects of peace talks with the newly elected Pakistani government.

Rehman, his deputy Fakhar-ul-Islam, and two Uzbeks were among seven people killed in yesterday's strike at a compound in the village of Chashma just outside Miramshah in North Waziristan. The attack took place in an area administered by the Haqqani Network, the Pakistani Taliban subgroup that is backed by Pakistan's military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and is closely allied with al Qaeda and other terror groups in the region. While the Haqqani Network is not officially part of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, it closely works with the group and shelters its leaders and fighters in North Waziristan.

The strike was the first in Pakistan in six weeks, and the first since Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz political party came out on top in Pakistan's parliamentary election on May 11. Sharif has indicated he wished to negotiate with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan to end years of fighting in Pakistan's tribal areas and the greater northwest.

Ihsan confirmed Rehman's death during an interview with Dawn, and noted that any chance of talks with the government have died along with Rehman.

"We are suspending all kinds of contacts and revoke the peace talks offer with the government, soon we shall be responding with full force," Ihsan said.

"On one hand the Pakistani government is advocating the mantra of peace talks, and on the other it is colluding with the United States and killing the Taliban leadership," he continued.

While Pakistani news outlets have reported that a commander known as Khan Said and Sajana Mehsud succeeded Rehman, Ihsan told Dawn that a replacement has not yet been named as the group's shura, or executive council, must meet before a decision is made.

"No I can not confirm yet, who will be taking over, the Taliban shura has not decided about it yet," Ihsan told Dawn.

For years, Rehman, an influential and respected leader in the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, served as both the deputy to Hakeemullah Mehsud and the group's emir in the tribal agency. He has been involved in multiple terror attacks inside Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan, including the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman at the end of December 2009 that killed seven CIA personnel, as well as in the failed Times Square car bombing in New York City on May 1, 2010.

The US Treasury Department added Rehman and Hakeemullah to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in September 2010, the same time that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan was named as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The US also put out a $5 million reward for information leading to their capture and prosecution.

The Pakistani government placed an estimated $600,000 bounty out for Hakeemullah and Waliur in the fall of 2009. Both men are wanted for terrorist attacks against the military, police, the government, and civilians inside Pakistan. Despite the bounties for Hakeemullah and Waliur, and 18 other Taliban leaders, only one has been killed and another has been captured.

In recent years, the Pakistani government routinely claimed that Rehman and Hakeemullah were at odds, and sometimes violently so. For instance, government officials alleged that the two Taliban emirs tried to kill each other during a meeting to name the successor to Baitullah Mehsud, the emir who was killed in a US drone strike in August 2009. The two Taliban leaders denied the clash ever took place, and have appeared in Taliban propaganda seated side-by-side in an effort to dispel the government claims.

The US has killed two senior Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal areas this year. In January, the drones killed Mullah Nazir, who led the Taliban faction in the Wazir areas of South Waziristan. He identified himself as an al Qaeda leader and waged jihad in Afghanistan. Although he was not a member of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Nazir, like the Haqqanis, has provided shelter and support for the group.



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READER COMMENTS: "Pakistani Taliban confirm death of deputy emir in drone strike"

Posted by Witch Doctor at May 30, 2013 2:05 PM ET:

A well placed shot. Hakeemullah has/had been a pain in the neck for some time. Those days are over and it shows that the US is targeting and acting on ridding the world of these stone age monsters.

Posted by ArneFufkin at May 30, 2013 2:22 PM ET:

Excellent news. Would have been nice if "Smilin' Hakee" was with him.

Posted by Scott P. at May 30, 2013 8:16 PM ET:

Nice hit. Good to see. It will be interesting to see who replaces him and what affect he will have. Any thoughts on that Mr. Roggio?

Posted by KaneKaizer at May 30, 2013 8:25 PM ET:

Well that puts more of a smile on my face. It seems like the only way to get the Pakistanis to take more aggressive action against the Taliban, even if only the TTP, is for the Taliban themselves to be the aggressors.

We'll still have to see whether or not Sharif has a backbone first, though.

Posted by gitsum at May 30, 2013 9:18 PM ET:

Put a fork in al-qaeda, theys be dun! Again key score for the use of drones.

Posted by Stan at May 30, 2013 10:53 PM ET:

Cheers,
To Barack Obama!
Still knowing how to pull the trigger.
Great shot!

Posted by gb at May 30, 2013 11:11 PM ET:

This is a good start after a bit of a lull. Good hunting..

Posted by JRP at May 31, 2013 11:07 AM ET:

I would not be putting forks into AQ just yet. It irritates me to no end to know that Ayman al Zawahiri is still unaccounted for. Though the recent hit was on someone involved in the FOB Chapman debacle of December 2009, it should be remembered that we got snookered because we thought we were going to be turned on to Zawahiri. He flipped the scheme on us and it turned out to be, in many ways, our worst defeat in this WoT, second only, perhaps, to the killing of many elite SEAL team members in the helicopter attack that occurred not long after we eliminated Bin Ladin. As long as Zawahiri is running the AQ show, don't count him out. He is the shrewdest of the big 3 who planned the September 11th, 2001 attack. He is still capable of arranging many insider attacks by turncoats already in the U.S. Before we put a "fork" in AQ, we have to put a "knife" in Zawahiri.

Posted by hibeam at May 31, 2013 11:26 AM ET:

We will soon see the first Shura conducted in a rat hole late at night.

Posted by mike merlo at May 31, 2013 2:43 PM ET:

photos of the 'guests' attending the funeral would be welcomed & so would 'Droning' it

Posted by Jeff at May 31, 2013 5:32 PM ET:

Splendid news.

Posted by Stephanie at June 1, 2013 4:07 AM ET:

JRP,

I agree that Zawahiri is the "worst" ... he's the most entrenched in it, joined the MB at age 14 and now he is an elderly man. That is a lot of years wasted down a very dark and insidious path.

My personal prediction, though, is that he is going to eventually be captured alive.

Posted by Arjuna at June 1, 2013 3:58 PM ET:

@JRP couldn't agree more. Ayman's a viper. He wants casualties in the seven figures. We targeted his family twice and killed many of them. He's not forgotten external operations or the Far Enemy. A recent news item suggested he makes decisions surrounded by 5-6 people. Who? Let's attack this angle. Different (unconfirmed) reports on his pattern-of-life. Some says he moves all the time (Pakistani and American experts), others (Stratfor, me) see a similar backdrop in successive videos suggesting an A'bad-like hideout. Whatever happened to the story of a Morsi meeting? I suppose someone from the visiting Egyptian delegation could have met someone from AQ and rumint did the rest.

Posted by Arjuna at June 1, 2013 4:07 PM ET:

Not sure if Bill replied or intends to, but according to Dawn:
"Khan Said aka Sajana Mehsud was reportedly nominated to succeed Rehman as the deputy of the TTP."
If true, this is a fast transition to a capable commander (the one who orchestrated the TTP attack on PNS Mehran), who has the chops to cause real problems in Pakistan.

Posted by Moose at June 2, 2013 9:47 PM ET:

@Arjuna
My guess on Zawahiri's whereabouts is that he's in North Waziristan. Unlike bin Ladin, Zawahiri is openly antagonistic towards the Paki state (as seen in the Lal Masjid incident) and won't be anywhere where the state has the power to arrest or control him (i.e., Punjab). I still think Pakistan knows where he is, but lets him operate anyways. Al-Qaeda's HQ is in North Waziristan and that's where he probably feels safest.

Posted by Arjuna at June 3, 2013 8:56 PM ET:

Moose, I agree w your reasons for North Waziristan. If uniformed Pakistanis are knowingly sheltering him that would be a casus belli. I often wonder if the same person or persons know the whereabouts of both MM Omar and AAZ. Miram Shah must be a key nerve center for him then. Where would he have room to plan with others? Compounds or institutions? There aren't many villas nearby. He could carry the green sheet around with him... he's so quiet on the messaging, deep in his hole. AQIM were yelping they only got two replies from him in three years, so he sure being careful and quiet, and patient, which I hate. We shouldn't withdraw until he's dealt with.

Posted by Nolan at June 3, 2013 10:01 PM ET:

Arjuna,

Completely agree on the importance of Khan Said Mehsud being a dangerous replacement. He also factors on the 2009 South Waziristan most wanted list issued by the Pakistanis. As far as I can tell, that list still contains many vital lieutenants to Hakimullah, despite the death of Waliur Rahman. Despite stories stressing the split between Waliur Rahman and Hakimullah, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/06/us-pakistan-taliban-idUSBRE8B50G920121206 , the two quickly denied such a schism existed, http://rupeenews.com/2012/12/ttp-split-a-lie-terrorists-mehsud-rehman-refute-rumor/. Thus, the remaining South Waziristan most wanted militants are still viable tools for Hakimullah's TTP. As for the remainder of the most wanted, Ameerullah Mehsud is dead, http://tribune.com.pk/story/25976/taliban-commander-killed-in-shootout/, and Abdullah Shah Mehsud was captured, http://archives.dawn.com/archives/34105/. Apparently Noor Wali Mehsud may have been killed in a drone strike as well, http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/03/pakistan.drone.attack/, as his compound was targeted back in 2009. Asmatullah Bhittani “Shaheen” was reported killed back in 2010 but it turned out to not be him, http://www.asianage.com/international/taliban-commander-killed-pakistan-004. . Lastly, some sources state that Qari Hussain Mehsud may actually have been killed back in October of 2010, http://www.defence.pk/forums/pakistans-war/102959-qari-hussain-suicide-bombers-squad-head-dead.html. Further evidence of this possibility stems from reports that Wali Mohamed or Toofan Mehsud who was killed by a drone strike in January of this year was actually Qari Hussain’s replacement within the TTP, http://dawn.com/2013/01/07/drone-kills-ttps-suicide-wing-chief/. Anyways, the list isn’t exactly dwindling, and thus it may be questioned if the hunt for these men has become irrelevant or if the Pakistanis have just committed their efforts poorly. I would say the latter. Also, despite some of the members not having gained notoriety, their importance has been exemplified with the appointment of Khan Said as Waliur’s successor.

Posted by hibeam at June 3, 2013 10:13 PM ET:

Pakistani Taliban confirm death of deputy emir in drone strike. "When we said he was OK, we meant in paradise you sillies"

Posted by blert at June 3, 2013 10:59 PM ET:

Moose...

After the bin Laden raid it's a sure bet that big Z is surrounded by what's left of the Black Guard.

He's likely to be laying low underneath an umbrella of mothers and children -- in a multi story structure -- that provides 'logistical cover' for the 'long squat.'

This would be a mild variation on ISI's Laden cage.

With all of the dependents -- and their associated activities -- it's impossible for our overhead assets to dope out his domicile.

It has been a muslim custom to hide such assets underneath high rise hospitals. Lacking such, big Z is in the bowels of a madrassa.

In sum, there can be no SEAL raid. We'd need a PIR to pry this roach into the daylight.

I agree that he's in North Waziristan.


Posted by Arjuna at June 4, 2013 4:40 PM ET:

Well-informed discussion as usual. An institution in N Waz sure makes the most sense. Hundreds of caves, dozens of compounds, but not that many madrassas or hospitals in Miran Shah or Mir Ali or the other towns and villages of that region. Is not an urgent earthquake shelter suitability study in all these structures' basements and subbasements in order? Is that not within the power of the United States on strictly humanitarian grounds?

Posted by Viv at June 5, 2013 1:16 AM ET:

Khan Sayed or Sajana Mehsud is indeed a capable commander ! For those who kept harping that Hakimullah was seen in the Bannu Jailbreak - If you look at the video closely it is Sajan Mehsud definitely and no Hakimullah. Somehow, he comes across as an experienced leader and an ideal replacement for Wali ur Rehman.