Hakeemullah Mehsud (left), the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is photographed with Waliur Rehman, the leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan (right), during a meeting with the media in Sararogha in South Waziristan in 2009. AP photo.
Pakistani officials are being far more cautious this time around when discussing the possibility that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed in a Jan. 12 drone strike in North Waziristan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who in the past has reported Hakeemullah’s death with certainty, said he needs more evidence. From Voice of America:
Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad Monday that unless he has “DNA evidence” or confirmation from his own “independent sources,” he will not say Mehsud is dead.
It seems Malik has finally decided to take LWJ‘s advice and is looking for better confirmation.
This report, from Central Asia Online, quotes a Taliban spokesman, who said that Hakeemullah was not at the scene of Jan. 12 strike:
A spokesperson for the TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan], Asimullah Asim Mehsud, however, denied the death of his commander.
“Hakeemullah was even not present on the scene where the drone hit two vehicles, killing eight Central Asian militants,” he said.
Sailab Mehsud, a tribal journalist from South Waziristan Agency, told Central Asia Online that he had spoken to residents of the Dattakhel area where the aerial attack occurred, who said Hakeemullah was present when the missile strike took place. However, they had no knowledge of his death, he said.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.