Hakeemullah Mehsud’s death is unconfirmed


Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud at a press conference in Peshawar in 2008.

Reuters is reporting that the news leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan may be dead. According to unnamed US intelligence officials, Hakeemullah Mehsud may have been killed during a clash with a rival Taliban group several weeks ago. From Reuters:

“We’re pretty clear that we think he’s dead,” a U.S. defence official said of Hakimullah.

A counterterrorism official said: “While there’s no final confirmation of his death, it’s a distinct possibility.”

The officials, who spoke about the intelligence on condition of anonymity, said Hakimullah was believed to have been shot weeks ago during a clash with a rival group in South Waziristan.

U.S. intelligence agencies are still reviewing information to make a final call on his death.

Below are a few points that should be considered during the early stages while attempting to determine the veracity of the Reuters report:

• There have been no reports of Hakeemullah’s death from Taliban or tribal sources in the tribal areas. The rumors often precede the more official reports from intelligence officials.

• There have been no reports of Taliban meetings to choose Hakeemullah’s successor, as there were after Baitullah was killed. The closest thing was a report in Dawn of a meeting held in Mir Ali, but the Taliban commanders reportedly discussed avenging Baitullah’s death with a suicide campaign.

• There have been no reports from Pakistan on Taliban infighting over the past several weeks. In fact, the last reports of infighting took place between Baitullah Mehsud’s fighters and the Abdullah Mehsud Group, the discredited Taliban group that sided with the government. This fighting took place during August. Turkistan Bhittani, a leader in the group, was responsible for floating rumors of Taliban infighting after Baitullah was killed in an airstrike.

• Hakeemullah was reported dead by Pakistani and US intel officials in the beginning of August after the so-called battle at the shura, where Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud supposedly shot it out and killed each other fighting over Baitullah’s leadership of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. No such shootout took place, and both Taliban leaders eventually took two of the top commands in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (the rumor was floated by Turkistan Bhittani). Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman even granted joint interviews to the press afterward.

• Hakeemullah’s brother, Kameemullah, was confirmed to have been killed this week. Kameemullah was killed while participating in the Taliban assault on a Frontier Corps base in Ramzak in North Waziristan.

• Hakeemullah Mehsud was last heard from on Sept. 16, while Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior deputy, has been very vocal since.

It is certainly possible that Hakeemullah was killed in a succession battle; the Taliban covered up Baitullah’s death for some time until they had chosen a new successor (my sources believe Baitullah didn’t die during the US Predator strike on Aug. 5; they believe he died of wounds suffered in the attack sometime afterward). Right now the reports are inconclusive.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • crosspatch says:

    If true, this is exactly the sort of outcome I expected. Simply naming someone honcho and giving them the title doesn’t really give any authority in that culture. It is all about who has whose bayat or oath of loyalty and it can take years to develop a network of alliances to get to the top.
    His reported reputation as a “hothead” made it seem unlikely to me that he would have the patience and strategic vision to operate in a low-key manner until he had solidified his support. By definition “hotheads” tend to act on impulse and often irritate people.
    It seems logical that some other faction would challenge him of he attempted to push too hard too quickly. While there is no proof yet, I find the report at least plausible and believable.

  • Ayamo says:

    Hasn’t Hakeemullah made several announcments since his presumed death?
    I think it is unlikely that he has been killed.
    Time will tell …

  • Mr T says:

    Some conflict seems inevitable in succession.
    Not to mention the large sums of money, power, and influence that the new leader would inherit.
    Or maybe they are only driven by their love for Allah. Not.

  • T Ruth says:

    Could it be that it was his brother after all, impersonating him and his voice. The voice is all thats been heard publicly–one wonders how good some of this voice recognition technology actually is, and ultimately how reliable.

  • Render says:

    That scope on the left side AK with the stylish synthetic late model furniture seems a bit over-optimistic for the somewhat worn out looking rifle in question.
    What’s the user compensating for?

  • hanging on every word says:

    Thanks for bulletizing your sensible skepticism, Bill. Loving the excerpts of almost comical non-statements:
    “We’re pretty clear that we think he’s dead,”
    “While there’s no final confirmation of his death, it’s a distinct possibility.”
    I wouldn’t mind at all if it were true, but WTH does “pretty clear that we think” even mean?? Sounds like a bad parody of weasel-talking experts. They can neither confirm nor deny that stuff did or did not happen. Worse yet, they are a month behind the official disinformants in Pakistan.


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