Hakeemullah Mehsud (left), the new leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is photographed with Waliur Rehman, the new leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan (right), during their meeting with the media in Sararogha in South Waziristan. AP photo.
Hakemullah Mehsud, the newly appointed leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has spoken to the media, shooting down recent reports by US intelligence officials who speculated he had been killed during a bout of internal fighting. From the Associated Press:
Mehsud, flanked by other Taliban commanders in a show of unity, spoke to a small group of reporters Sunday on condition the interview only be published Monday.
Mehsud said his group would avenge the killing of Baitullah Mehsud and strike back at Pakistan and the U.S. for the increasing number of drone attacks in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
The speculative report earlier this month is the second false report since August claiming Hakeemullah was killed during a leadership succession struggle since the death of Baitullah Mehsud, his predecessor, in a US airstrike in South Waziristan. The first report was floated by rival, ‘pro-government’ Taliban leader Turkistan Bhittani, who claimed that Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud killed each other at a meeting to choose Baitullah’s successor. Hakeemullah and Waliur later conducted a joint interview to show their unity.
Clearly the US and Pakistan are attempting to flush out the new Taliban leaders by getting them to gather and talk to the press. The Taliban are aware of this. Hakeemullah insisted the reporters delay publishing the interview for one day, indicating he seeks to keep the trackers off his tail.
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