Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, before the Pakistani Army launched the South Waziristan offensive in October 2009.
Tariq Azam, the top spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, backtracked on statements made by other Taliban commanders who said Hakeemullah Mehsud would release a tape to prove he was alive. From The Associated Press:
We don’t feel any need presently to release a video, but whenever we feel a need, we will do so,” Pakistani Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The spokesman’s comments came a day after a close aide to Mehsud told the AP that the militant group would try to provide proof in a day or two that its leader was alive. The senior Taliban commander spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retribution.
Tariq called Sunday’s Pakistani television report that first announced Mehsud’s death propaganda and said the leader “is perfectly well, alive and staying at a safe location.”
The state TV report was apparently based on witnesses who said they attended Mehsud’s funeral last week in the Orakzai tribal area.
Tariq said Mehsud would not appear before the media to prove he is alive because it could endanger him.
“We are not going to fall prey to this trap and make our leader vulnerable to the spy network, and secondly, the leadership council has restricted the leader from speaking to the media for certain reasons,” said Tariq.
As noted yesterday, the Taliban will ultimately let us know if Hakeemullah is indeed dead. Azam’s statement certainly lends weight to the idea that Hakeemullah has departed this planet. But his other statement, that the intelligence services want Hakeemullah to quickly release a tape in hopes of catching the Taliban in a mistake, which could lead to targeting information, is also true (a point that was also made in yesterday’s post).
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