Hakeemullah Mehsud (left), the Leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi (right), the suicide bomber who carried out the attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA operatives and a Jordanian intelligence official.
The leader of the Pakistani Taliban released another audiotape denying that he was killed in Thursday’s airstrike along the border between North and South Waziristan.
“Today, on the 16th of January, I am saying it again — I am alive, I am OK, I am not injured… when the drone strike took place, I was not present in the area at that time,” Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said in a recorded statement that was played for reporters. Hakeemullah provided a specific date to confirm he was alive.
“After the audio I released yesterday, some people speculated and said that I did not mention the date,” Hakeemullah said. “This is propaganda of the kafirs (unbelievers). They want to weaken us through this propaganda.”
Pakistani intelligence officials were insisting Hakeemullah was killed in the US strike on a training camp that killed up to 15 terrorists, including two Arabs and several Uzbeks. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal on Friday said they believed he was alive.
The Taliban commander threatened to conduct more strikes inside Pakistan if the US air campaign was not halted.
“If the drone attacks continue, the TTP [Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] will not be responsible for any dangerous steps in future — the government of Pakistan will be responsible,” Hakeemullah threatened.
Hakeemullah has been responsible for the wave of suicide attacks and conventional assaults against civilian and military targets throughout Pakistan and in Pakistan-held Kashmir that began on Oct. 5, 2009.
The US air campaign has been stepped up since Hakeemullah aided the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack by a Jordanian al Qaeda operative at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan’s Khost province. The bomber killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer.
Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed two senior al Qaeda leaders, a senior Taliban commander, two senior al Qaeda operatives, and a wanted Palestinian terrorist who was allied with al Qaeda.
Already this year, the US has killed Mansur al Shami, an al Qaeda ideologue and aide to al Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid; and Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan. Also, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, the Abu Nidal Organization operative who participated in killing 22 hostages during the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, is thought to have been killed in the Jan. 9 airstrike.
In December 2009, the US killed Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior commander in the Lashkar al Zil; and Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda’s external network [see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010” for the full list].
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