Taliban deny Hakeemullah is dead

A commander reported to have replaced Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud has denied he has taken control of the terror group and states that Hakeemullah is still alive.

“Hakeemullah was neither killed nor I have been appointed acting emir (chief) of the Taliban,” Maulvi Noor Jamal, a local commander in the Arakzai tribal agency who has been rumored to have succeeded Hakkemullah, told Reuters today. Maulvi Noor Jamal, who is also known as Maulvi Toofan, was first reported to have taken over for the Taliban by The News on Feb. 2.

Another Taliban leader, who was not identified, also told Reuters today that Hakeemullah is alive. Yesterday, Azam Tariq, the top Taliban spokesman, also denied the latest rumor that Hakemullah had been killed.

But a top Pakistani official today claimed that “credible information” exists that Hakeemullah was killed, but admitted he does not have proof.

“I have credible information that he’s dead but I don’t have any confirmation,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters.

The latest rumor that Hakeemullah died from wounds sustained in the Jan. 14 Predator strike in North Waziristan, which was carried out by unmanned US aircraft and killed 17 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, is the fifth report of his death since 2008.

In January 2008, the Pakistani military claimed Hakeemullah was killed during an operation in South Waziristan, only to have the Taliban leader mock them at a press conference in Peshawar months later.

In August 2009, Rehman Malik insisted that Hakeemullah had been killed during a clash with Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan, over who would succeed Baitullah Mehsud after his death during US Predator strike. Hakeemullah and Waliur later called news outlets together and also appeared together on a videotape to disprove the claim, but Malik insisted that Hakeemullah was being played by a body double, possibly his brother.

After the Jan. 14, 2009, airstrike, a new rumor emerged that Hakeemullah had been killed, but the Taliban commander issued a tape in which he denied the report and provided the day’s date, Jan. 16. Two weeks later, another rumor surfaced, claiming that Hakeemullah had died from a head injury and was buried on Jan. 28 in the Arakzai tribal agency. The latest rumor maintains that Hakeemullah died on Feb. 9 near the city of Multan while being transported from Arakzai to the port city of Karachi for medical treatment [see LWJ report, “New rumors of the death of Pakistani Taliban leader emerge“].

On Jan. 31, Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq said Hakeemullah would no longer issue audio or video tapes to confirm he is alive as US and Pakistani intelligence would seek to use the information to track back to his location.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal refuse to speculate further on Hakeemullah’s status. They say that because the Pakistani military and government have little capacity to determine the facts due to Taliban control of the tribal regions, the Taliban themselves will ultimately provide the evidence that Hakeemullah is alive or dead.

Hakeemullah is considered one of the Taliban’s most able and dangerous commanders. He has orchestrated the assult on NATO’s supply lines in the fall of 2007 and winter of 2008 that resulted in the Khyber Pass being closed six times, the most recent Taliban suicide campaign in Pakistan, and the tactical retreat from the military’s operation in South Waziristan that began in October 2009. He has vowed to continue attacks until the military withdraws from the northwest.

Hakeemullah also sponsored the suicide attack that killed seven CIA personnel in Khost Afghanistan on Dec. 30, 2009. The CIA has been actively hunting Hakeemullah after that attack.

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



  • KaneKaizer says:

    Fantastic. Talk about frustrating.

  • greg says:

    I would sure deny I had taken control and insist that Hakeemulah was still alive and well at the helm if I was nominated.

  • INFINIBLUE says:

    Jamal is so scared to be the next one on death list. He surely does not want to acknowledge that he is the new boss.

  • Hanging on every word says:

    They’re just playing us as best they can, showing how well they do infowar. Dead or alive, they scatter and hide like cockroaches in the light. Long war indeed. In the meantime, they can dole out “credible information” and see who leaks. Sitting in my armchair, fingers crossed, repeating the mantra “we’ll know when they want us to”.

  • Cordell says:

    This situation is somewhat reminiscent of the situation with Hamas’s leaders awhile back. Israel became so effective in killing every newly appointed leader that Hamas eventually refused to announce its choice of successor for the recently departed.

  • DANNY says:

    Hey we know he is dead… we voted. He’s DEAD!

  • Mr T says:

    If it is so dangerous for Hakeemullah to prove he is alive by making a video or audio, then why is the understudy out there talking away?
    We shouldn’t have to wait to kill the # 2 guy. In fact, going after the guys in line will probably net the big guy also since they are in contact with each other.

  • Peacock says:

    “If it is so dangerous for Hakeemullah to prove he is alive by making a video or audio, then why is the understudy out there talking away?”
    My thoughts exactly, Mr T. I pity the fool who tries to argue with logic like that.
    I hope we soon find reason to congratulate Qari Hussain on his successful martyrdom.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I am going to preface this by saying I think there is a good chance Hakeemullah is dead, or wounded. The rumors point to something. What we don’t know.
    OK, I will take a stab at this:
    “If it is so dangerous for Hakeemullah to prove he is alive by making a video or audio, then why is the understudy out there talking away?”
    Because Maulvi Jamal is a relative unknown, and likely isn’t on a US targeting list. And, if he wants to stay off that list, he has good incentive to say he isn’t the commander of the TTP, particularly if he is not.
    Here is what I have yet to see someone give a reasonable answer to. Everyone was certain he was dead right after the Jan.14 strike. He came out and said he wasn’t. Then he was “buried” on Jan. 28 and everyone was again certain he was dead. But then he dies again on Feb. 9, and everyone is again certain that is when he died.
    Which was was it? Why isn’t anyone questioning the sources of the two previous reports? Is he a vampire? Has anyone actually looked at the record of Pakistani officials claiming Taliban leaders killed? Do you not remember how many times Fazullah, Faqir Mohmmed, Baitullah, Hakeemullah, Qari Hussain, and others died over the past few years? Or how about Shad Doran, who died in Swat only to die of cancer later in Bajaur? How about Hakeemullah’s body double?
    The Baituallah death is the rare instance of Rehman Malik being correct. A broken clock and all.
    Does anyone remember how we were told Abu Khabab, Abu Ubaidah al Masri, Umar Farooq, and Abd al Hadi al Iraqi were killed in the Damadola strike in 2006? We were told Pak had DNA evidence to prove it. Then, months they started reappearing. Khabab was killed in a strike in 2009. Hadi was captured entering Iraq sometime in late 2006/early 2007. Farouq was killed entering Iraq in late 2006. Ubaidah died of natural causes in early 2008
    Given the Pakistani government’s record of calling the Taliban and al Qaeda dead, if you were the Taliban, would you jump each time they said you were dead? Why would you play their game?
    Wanting someone dead doesn’t make someone dead.
    I think there is good reason to remain skeptical of the reports. I am very surprised people are willing to overlook the history and jump to conclusions.

  • Mr T says:

    “Because Maulvi Jamal is a relative unknown, and likely isn’t on a US targeting list.”
    Well, He should be. He is a Taliban Commander after all.
    Who was that other guy that Hakeemullah vied with for the top spot? Was it Walik Rehman or something like that. Wouldn’t he be the logical successor? I am sure he wants control of the money. I hope we are targeting him also.

  • ramsis says:

    I think we should make more of an effort to capture some of these individuals. I know its easier said than done but clearly we are getting some intel on the wherabouts of some of these targets so why not try. Marc Thiessen has an article that articulates this quite well called “Dead Terrorists Tell No Tales”. I think it’s worth some consideration.

  • T Ruth says:

    The inability of the Pak Govt to get the corpse (if there is one) really shows up their impotence.
    Malik sitting there in Islamabad claiming to have credible information–WITHOUT declaring source and content really makes them look like a bunch of jokers.
    So, yes it shows what the mainstream media has come to when they sacrifice their own credibility and equate it with that of these rogues.
    Whether this guy is dead or not is uncertain.
    Whether Malik and Co AND his undeclared hooded sources have an impeccable record of lying through their teeth is certain.
    What also now comes into question is whether the leading dailies have compromised themselves in the way they are throwing their weight to tilt the balance, instead of putting entirely appropriate pressure on the Pak Govt and Army and showing up their impotence. As also their lack of sovereignty in the NW.
    If there was an institutional version of Viagra, i would prescribe it to the Pak collective. It would be good to see them stand up for a change, instead of lying (around) and squirming.

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    I don’t think we can trust PAK intel, this one we are just gonna wait..i bet the “next one” maybe giving this second thoughts. Damn I thought Bering Sea fishin was the most dangerous job…don’t have nothing on this “death trap”….step right up here sonny..”you have life insurance?” LOL!!!


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