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.
A new report of the death of the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has surfaced, and the report contradicts a prior claim that the feared commander died at the end of January.
Hakeemullah Mehsud, the commander of the Pakistani Taliban who has been behind a recent terror campaign in Pakistan and the death of seven CIA agents in Afghanistan, is reported to have died on Feb. 9 near the city of Multan. According to the report in Samaa TV, Hakeemullah was being transferred to the port city of Karachi for medical attention but died of injuries sustained in a US Predator strike in the Shaktoi region in North Waziristan on Jan. 14.
Both Samaa TV and Dawn claimed that several mid-level Taliban commanders said Hakeemullah died en route to Karachi; the names of the Taliban commanders were not disclosed, however. Maulvi Noor Jamal, the Taliban commander in the Kurram tribal agency who is also known as Maulvi Toofan, has taken control of the group, according to Dawn.
The Taliban disputed the latest rumor, and Azam Tariq, the group’s top spokesman, told Geo News that Hakeemullah was indeed alive. There has been no official statement from the Taliban that Jamal has assumed command of the Taliban.
The report directly contradicts an earlier claim, on Jan. 28, that Hakeemullah died days after the Jan. 14 Predator strike. According to Pakistan TV, tribal leaders in the Arakzai tribal agency claimed Hakeemullah was buried at the end of January. Five days later, tribal leaders also claimed that Maulvi Noor Jamal took control of the Taliban.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not speculate on Hakeemullah’s death. One official was very suspicious of the reports coming from the region.
“There is no way Hakeemullah died twice,” the official said. “Did they exhume his body, revive him, and transport it to Karachi?”
“What we are seeing here is the result of the Taliban’s grip on the region,” the official continued. “The Pakistani military can’t even go to the place where he was supposedly buried two weeks ago to see if his corpse is actually there.”
“We are chasing rumors, he may be dead, he may not be, we won’t know until the Taliban want us to know,” another senior official said.
The US has been actively hunting Hakeemullah, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal in January. 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.
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.
Hakeemullah was last seen on a videotape in early January 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 bomber 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, only to have Hakeemullah refute the claims. The military claimed Hakeemullah was killed in January 2008, but several months later he mocked the military during a press conference.
In August 2009, the government maintained that he was killed during a clash with South Waziristan Taliban leader Waliur Rehman Mehsud in an argument over who would replace Baitullah Mehsud. The Taliban denied that any such clash ever took place. Both leaders later appeared together in several tapes, but the government retorted that a body double was standing in for Hakeemullah.
Most recently, Hakeemullah released an audiotape on Jan. 16 to refute the claim he was killed in the Jan. 14 strike. This was the last time he has been heard from, however, which has helped fuel the speculation that he succumbed to injuries in the attack. Azam Tariq, the Taliban spokesman, declared that Hakeemullah would no longer release tapes to confirm he is alive as it could lead US and Pakistani intelligence services to him.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.