Taliban spokesman: Qari Hussain Mehsud is alive

The Pakistani Taliban are denying reports that Qari Hussain Mehsud was killed in a recent Predator strike.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Azam Tariq has contradicted news reports about Qari Hussain’s death in a drone strike and described it as part of a campaign to demoralise the Taliban.

Talking to reporters from an undisclosed location on Saturday, the TTP spokesman called the death of Qari Hussain, an alleged mastermind of suicide bombers, a drama, saying Hussain was alive and healthy and would soon talk to the media.

For more on Qari Hussain and the recent and previous reports of his death, see LWJ report, Conflicting reports mean the death of senior Pakistani Taliban leader unlikely.

Also, my intelligence sources still do not believe that he was killed. And Taliban sources close to Flashpoint Partners are saying he is alive but may have been lightly wounded in a strike on Oct. 4 that killed several German recruits.

Regarding the possibility that the Pakistan Taliban might be lying about Qari Hussain’s death, I can say that I can recall only one instance in which the Taliban did something similar, and that was the death of Baitullah Mehsud, in August 2009. And even in that case, several Taliban sources, including Azam Tariq (who was not the official spokesman at the time), were saying he was dead. The Taliban ultimately confirmed that Baitullah was dead and issued a martyrdom tape at the end of the month, after the issue of who would succeed him had been decided.

There is one case of an allied jihadist group obscuring the death of its leader, however. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan denied that Tahir Yuldashev was killed in a strike in the summer of 2009, and didn’t admit he was killed until one year later.

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

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