Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud at a press conference in Peshawar. He is behind the attacks on NATO convoys in Khyber and Peshawar.
Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud was the target of a series of Pakistani strikes in the Arakzai tribal agency last weekend.
Pakistani Air Force attack aircraft and artillery targeted four Taliban bases in Ghiljo in Arakzai on April 19, AFP reported. The military claimed 15 Taliban fighters were killed and the four bases were destroyed in the attack. Hakeemullah was not killed in the attacks. Pakistani forces also hit Taliban bases in Khyber today, but no casaulties were reported.
The attack on the Arakzai bases took place one day after a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a convoy as it passed through a checkpoint in the neighboring district of Hangu. Twenty-five policemen and two civilians were killed in the blast, while scores more were wounded. Hakeemullah claimed credit for the suicide attack in Hangu.
The US recently tried to kill Hakeemullah. An April 1, 2009 Predator airstrike on a camp in Arakzai targeted a meeting being held by senior lieutenants of the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The Arakzai strike was the first in that tribal agency; previous attacks have targeted Taliban and al Qaeda camps and safe houses in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Kurram, and Hangu.
The meeting was to be held at the home of a local Taliban leader named Maulvi Gul Nazeer. Hakeemullah was supposed to be in attendance. Twelve people were reported killed in the attack; among the dead were four Arab al Qaeda operatives, including a leader named Qaqa (or Kaka). Qaqa was the deputy of a senior al Qaeda leader operating in the region, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
Hakeemullah admitted the April 1 strike hit one of his training camps. He threatened to conduct suicide attacks in Islamabad to avenge the airstrike as the Pakistani government has been cooperating with the US to carry out the strikes.
Background on Hakeemullah Mehsud
Hakeemullah is a rising star in the Pakistani Taliban. He is a senior lieutenant and cousin of Baitullah. He is also a cousin of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the notorious Taliban commander who trains child suicide bombers in South Waziristan.
Hakeemullah has been leading operations against NATO’s supply lines in Khyber and Peshawar. His forces have been behind raids that have led to the destruction of more than 600 NATO vehicles and shipping containers. The raids have also destroyed two vital bridges. Pakistan closed the Khyber Pass to NATO traffic six times since September 2008 because of the attacks. The raids on the supply columns moving through Khyber have forced NATO to search for alternative supply routes into Pakistan.
Hakeemullah commands Taliban forces in the Arakzai, Kurram, and Khyber tribal agencies. Recently, he held an open press conference in Peshawar. The government made no effort to detain him.
In December 2008, Hakeemullah imposed sharia, or Islamic law, throughout Arakzai.
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