Hakeemullah Mehsud targeted in latest US airstrike in Pakistan


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

The early morning airstrike today that struck a Taliban training camp in North Waziristan targeted the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Pakistani officials claimed Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed but the Taliban commander’s spokesman denied the reports.

The airstrike was carried out by US attack aircraft in the Pasalkot region in North Waziristan, a region that borders South Waziristan. Two missiles are said to have leveled a compound that served as a madrassa, or religious school. Ten Taliban fighters were reported killed in the attack, according to early reports. Hakeemullah was one of three senior Taliban leaders present during the attack, according to a Pakistani intelligence official.

“It is immaterial to say how many have been killed in the attack,” the Pakistani official said, according to Dawn, noting that Hakeemullah was indeed the target of the US attack. “The important thing for us is whether Hakeemullah is amongst those killed. He has probably been killed.”

The Taliban denied that Hakeemullah had been killed but did confirm he was in the region.

“We were in Shaktoi but not at the compound which has been struck,” Azam Tariq, Hakeemullah’s spokesman, said. The town of Shaktoi is near Ramzak in North Waziristan.

Some intelligence officials and several militants said that Hakeemullah was not killed in the attack.

Hakeemullah was last seen on a videotape with the Jordanian al Qaeda operative who killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer, in a suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province. The outpost was used to gather intelligence for strikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In the tape, the Jordanian claimed he carried out the suicide attack to avenge the death of Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was killed in a US strike in August 2009.

The Pakistani government has insisted several times in the past that Hakeemullah was killed during a clash with South Waziristan Taliban leader Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The government claimed the two killed each other during an argument over who would replace Baitullah, while the Taliban denied the clash ever took place. Both leaders later appeared together in several tapes, but the government insisted that a body double was standing in for Hakeemullah.

In the past, the Pakistani government has had an abysmal track record in reporting al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed. But most recently, the Pakistani government was correct when it claimed Baitullah was killed last August. The Taliban had denied the claims but later relented when they announced Hakeemullah as their new leader.

Hakeemullah is considered an able and dangerous leader. He has orchestrated the Taliban suicide campaign in Pakistan and the tactical retreat from the military’s operation in South Waziristan. He has vowed to continue attacks until the military withdraws from the northwest.

It is unclear who would replace Hakeemullah if he was killed in the strike. Waliur Rehman was the other front-runner, but he has been ejected from his stronghold in South Waziristan.

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



  • AAndrew says:

    This would be a great success if true. Fingers crossed!

  • Cerberus says:

    All I can say is “hey man, nice shot.”
    Any ID or ideas about the three other senior Taliban leaders present during the attack?

  • JZarris says:

    Only a matter of time…

  • James says:

    Good show!

  • Alek says:

    There will always be another Mehsud. They just won’t stop, these people are not getting the message. Its very frustrating.

  • Bill Dames says:

    What I see is real escaltion to get the bad guys. according to the arctical if it is correct we used manned fixed wing aircraft. I thik they wanted larger munitions than the drones can carry.

  • ramsis says:

    I’m holding my applause until we have confirmation. Too many times these snakes seem to slither away before the airstrike.

  • Paul says:

    Bill , if this is true it willmake my day and week! Good job US forces…..now let’s clamp down harder and get the rest.

  • Chris says:

    “A Pakistani Taliban spokesman told Dawn TV that Mehsud was safe and had left minutes before the strike.”
    If this is true then i’m confused about the method of the strikes.
    I think that there has to be a kind of surveillance before the strike…and then we will see that somebody is leaving the compound.
    And with “wolf pack” drones attacking you could follow or kill the leaving targets!

  • KaneKaizer says:

    There may always be “another Mehsud”, but when we take out the more experienced, recognizable, charismatic leaders it has a demoralizing effect on the Taliban. It also helps us to some degree in Pakistan, because by killing the TTP leaders we’re effectively fighting “their enemy” too, since they only view the TTP and Al Qaeda as a threat.

  • arvadadan says:

    I also believe it is time to step it up, I believe that area would benefit greatly from a little carpet bombing on most of it!!

  • Setrak says:

    Applauding would be premature. Geo is saying Uzbek militants are amongst the dead while noting that some Uzbeks serve as Haki’s bodyguards. However, others are reporting both militant and official sources as saying that Haki survived. So, we’ll see; right now all I know is that there seems to be confusion amongst officials.

  • Doug Hylton says:

    I think the young age of Hakeemullah shows with the published photos of Hakeemullah and his gang hanging out smiling and joking. A more cautious and wiser Mullah Omar does not allow is photo to be taken. As I understand it Hakeemullah did not have a solid grip on his leadership position and there could be some not to happy clansmen in his group. Hakeemullah’s location could have been revealed by one by his own disgruntled clansman settling a score. Hakeemullah was acting like the John Gotti of Taliban leaders. It would be more prudent to keep a low profile in a land where loyalties often go to the highest bidder.

  • Elm Creek Smith says:

    I’m tired of half-measures. Why don’t we use GBU-43/B? Might not be able to tell who we got, but you’d know we got ’em all!

  • Civy says:

    I was struck by the fact that the reports talked about strike aircraft, and I really had to dig to find anyone going on record to say the missiles were fired from Predator or Reaper aircraft. I wonder if those reports are accurate? A sprawling compound would seem to require more firepower than a couple of Hellfire missiles, and there was no one insisting they were Hellfires.
    Again, as in the case where AQ leadership was killed inside a cave, a target that would seem to require a JASOW BROACH “missile”, this seems like more destruction than our drones can dish out, unless a lot of them mass.
    It seems more likely that a few Reapers were on station, and some sort of glide bombs were dropped from across the border. When they impacted, the Reapers targeted what was left.
    Whatever the vehicle, it’s very encouraging that this kind of firepower can be brought to bear, one would assume, on short notice. Good DO tactics. Disperse and coalesce.

  • chen says:

    It is unclear who would replace Hakeemullah if he was killed in the strike. Waliur Rehman was the other front-runner, but he has been ejected from his stronghold in South Waziristan.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    According to this report, the Taliban are now claiming Hakeemullah was injured in the strike.
    I’ve also seen another report claiming a new strike today (Friday) which injured Hakeemullah, however it looks more like an error because there are no other reports of a new strike. They probably got confused when the Taliban claimed their leader was injured a day after claiming he was safe and not in the area.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    Also, if the Taliban are claiming he was injured in the attack, it brings back the memory of when Baitullah was being reported killed. It’s possible he really is injured and we don’t know how badly, but it’s also possible it’s a delaying tactic for the TTP to choose a new leader like they did with Baitullah.
    Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • Render says:

    Per Google Earth (strip date Jan 2004) Razmak has a small (3/4 mile) single strip airfield (no tower) and a clearly marked helicopter landing pad. This pad is rather unusual for the region.
    There are several other small single strip fields in larger towns in the region (Miram Shah, Wana), but none with a clearly marked helicopter pad.
    What’s the significance of that pad and why does Razmak rate it when larger towns (including the regional capitol) do not?
    The town of Shaktoi does not show up on Google Earth.

  • Aamer says:

    BBC Urdu reports (citing a taliban inside source) that Hakimullah Mehsud has been injured in the attack.

  • T Ruth says:

    By the sounds of it, a very close shave. Hope the head injury is a permanent one.
    Surprised that they could find him so easily, yet not enough firepower.
    so far this is the most detailed report i’ve been able to find

  • Peacock says:

    Other reports (i.e., thaindian.com) claim Qari Hussain was present and killed in the attack. His death alone would be a major development.

  • Baitullah's Ghost says:

    This is very similar to Baitullah “House of Pain” Mehsud, because at first the Taliban said he was not dead, then Baitullah was apparently injured and then finally they said he had died.
    Well, even if Hakeemullah isn’t dead but just injured, then that does in some ways dampen the propaganda effects of the CIA base bombing, because then it’s absolutely clear that if you attack our guys, we WILL hit you back and you WILL feel it…
    Bait el-pain…
    Baitullah “house of pain” mehsud probably sends his regards from hell at this time…

  • kp says:

    All those need US strike aircraft should remember that a single RQ-9 Reaper can carry 3000lbs of ordnance including the 500lb SDB. And they probably fly in flights of four (though I suspect that might be a mix of Predator and Repear depending on the targets and the amount of squiters expected).

    A single SDB is plenty to take out a house or a small bunker or a cave when you hit the cave entrance. The Hellfires have a range of warheads including thermobaric warheads for “killing around corners” in buildings and caves.

    Finally big bombs are counter productive when you kill lots of civilians. And you can bet these guys hang out with some to help with shielding. You need the target point to hit your target. And hitting you target precisely is a lot more scary to the opposition and probably generates a purge which hopefully takes out some more AQ as “spys”.

  • Civy says:

    The SDB is a 250lb (285lb to be exact) bomb. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/sdb.htm
    I hope they are not flown in flights of 4, as it would dramatically degrade their ability to effectively patrol large areas. Packing more ordnance into a single craft is also counter-productive beyond some point, as no aircraft can be in more than one place at one time, so if the targets are smart enough to disperse in every direction, one must chose one target to follow, and knowing which is the best one to follow is usually impossible to know.
    DO tactics call for wide dispersal and quick coalescence when a target of opportunity is found. A reasonable approach would be to have a primary target for the day for a related group of drones, where they expect to get the call to converge on and engage a target from a primary target area during their mission, but they continue to search for new targets until that contingency materializes.
    It should also be noted that the great advantage of the drone aircraft is their unlimited endurance, which allows targets to be tracked at all times without any break in coverage. Given that this advantage is unique to drone aircraft, whereas the ability to deliver large weapons loads on target quickly is not, it is a better use of available payload for drones to fly gas instead of munitions where that trade-off is possible.
    It may well be that a change in the Pak government’s attitude towards drone strikes has allowed the US to perform mid-air refueling in-theater, so no gaps are created when refueling takes place. If so, Reapers with full ordnance complements are capable of a lot of destruction, especially since small SDBs are all munition and zero engine.
    With regard to using larger bombs, in addition to the disadvantages already cited, unless there is a requirement for more penetration on a point target, since air is such a poor conductor of kinetic energy, more, smaller munitions are a better choice. This is the reason weapons as small as 120mm mortar shells now have sub-munitions, and even those use ball bearings, instead of the random shape of shrapnel, to make a much greater impact on soft targets.
    I completely agree that it is vitally important that we continue to hit exactly what we are aiming at, and that our targets are well chosen. To that end there was reportedly an impassioned plea by a prominent Pakistani this week for more drone strikes, as they are widely believed to be hitting the bad guys almost exclusively. This in contrast to the blunt force trauma borne by those who were to become refugees fleeing the “scorched earth” approach of the Pak Army last summer.
    If we let our frustration and lack of patience dictate our tactics we repeat the mistakes of the Soviets, and will not only lose the war, but will lose the peace that will follow. In short, while no one in this region wants anything to do with Russia, even after the fall of the Soviet Empire, we should hope to be welcomed as protectors throughout the region when we finally are able to leave and come home.

  • Civy says:

    PS: Also possible we are using a Hi-Lo approach where the Reaper’s with the SDB glide bombs and a ceiling of 50k ft stay up high to watch large areas and deliver ordnance on request, and the Predators stay below 20k and watch high-probability areas already identified by human intel or the high-flying Reapers. With laser terminal guidance, it should be possible to drop an SDB before it’s precise final destination is known. Hi-Lo makes particular sense since one is turbine engined (thirsty down low) and one is piston engined.

  • Neo says:

    The Shaktoi is a river not a town. The suffix “toi” seems to be a general designation for river in this area.
    It is the river that separates the Razmak sub-district of North Waziristan from the Sararogha sub-district of South Waziristan. It flows into the Bannu agency. This river is dry most of the year.
    Also, the town of Razmak is in South Waziristan. The District of Razmak is in North Waziristan.


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