Pakistani Taliban chief survived US airstrike


Hakeemullah Mehsud, left. AFP photo.

The leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was targeted by the US in an airstrike in the tribal areas survived but may have been wounded.

US intelligence officials believe Hakeemullah Mehsud escaped the airstrike that killed 12 Taliban and foreign fighters. Two Arabs and several Uzbek fighters were among those reported killed.

Hakeemullah may have been wounded, according to reports in the Pakistani press. BBC Urdu reported that Hakeemullah was treated for a head wound.

“All indications are that Hakeemullah survived the airstrike,” A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. Officials would not comment on reports that Hakeemullah was wounded.

The Pakistani Taliban have denied their leader was killed or even wounded in the strike, but confirmed he was in the town when the strike took place.

“Hakeemullah is alive and safe,” Tariq Azam, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan told AFP. “I met with him last night, there was not even a scratch on him. He left the place (of the strike) 40 or 60 minutes beforehand.”

The US is actively hunting Hakeemullah, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Efforts have increased after he appeared on a martyrdom video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA operatives and a Jordanian intelligence officer across the border in Khost province, Afghanistan.

The US has conducted seven strikes using the unmanned Predator and Reaper aircraft in Pakistan’s tribal areas since the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost on Dec. 30, 2009.

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.

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



  • ArneFufkin says:

    We need to use bigger bombs when targeting guys like Hakeemullah in obvious combatant compounds. There are times when collateral damage is a price we need to pay to remove murderous thugs from this earth.

  • Mr T says:

    Keep dogging him until you get him. He probably was injured. Where was Baitullah taken when he was injured? Look there now.
    And why are these guys always leaving 30 minutes before the strike? Tipped off? Always on the move anyway?
    They said wee hours of the morning with strike aircraft, not drones. Thats a new twist.

  • Max says:

    Who wants to bet that Pak intelligence tipped him off?

  • Pat Ryan says:

    Sounds like we’re getting pretty close to old Hakimullah. After the death of Baitullah a few months ago, it would be a significant blow to TTP if we could get Hakimullah so soon after, potentially creating another rift within the organization over who would succeed Hakimullah. Bill, who do you think would step in to replace him? Would this be an opportune time for Siraj Haqqani to assert himself or will he stay under the radar?
    For some great background and analysis on Hakimullah Mehsud and his involvement in the Dec 30 attack on the CIA outpost in Khost, see JD’s posts on Al Sahwa at: and

  • KaneKaizer says:

    One thing I’ve been wondering, how long do the Predators and Reapers stay in the air above the target area before firing their missiles or dropping bombs? I would think that even if Hakeemullah “left”, that the drone operators would’ve seen him leave if they spent some time above the target to confirm it before striking.
    If Hakeemullah was “injured”, but “left 40 or 60 minutes beforehand”, those seem to contradict too.

  • Charley says:

    >Where was Baitullah taken when he was injured?
    Perhaps the same place that Bin Laden gets his weekly dialysis treatment – Pakistan Military Hospitals.

  • C.H. says:

    “Who wants to bet that Pak intelligence tipped him off?
    Extremely unlikely…Hakimullah has declared war against the state of Pakistan and has bombed several ISI offices.
    Keep in mind that TTP is different than the Afghan Taliban.

  • Hanging on every word says:

    Yeah, I’d think ISI/PA wants this guy gone as bad (or worse) as we do. Could be something as simple as phone pickets around HVT meetings Probably SOP for these resourceful hillbillies, it happens so often. Don’t know how loud drones are, but a cheap p-mike could be their SONAR.

  • R Davidson says:

    Wow now the Taliban are saying he was in the house and injured –
    Knowing the way things went with Baitullah, he could well be dead.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @KaneKaizer: One has to believe that commanders have actionable info to target any single location. I too wonder why we don’t set up scenarios where the cars fleeing target sites 30-40 minutes before engagement are not considered tipped HVTs as a matter of standard ROE. We might not have to destroy buildings and kill these pervert’s kids if we can get them in their getaway motorcades.
    Also: It seems to me the ISI traitors could be easily exposed through “sting” ops if the Paki government really wanted to find them. I don’t think they do, and that’s a big part of Pakistan “problem”.


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