Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stream of Reports Says Pakistani Taliban Leader Died in Drone Strike

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stream of Reports Says Pakistani Taliban Leader Died in Drone Strike

Article excerpt

LONDON -- A U.S. drone strike Friday killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, according to Pakistani intelligence officials and militant commanders in the tribal belt.

If confirmed, his death would be a major achievement for the covert CIA program at a time when drones have come under renewed scrutiny over civilian casualties in both Pakistan and the United States.

It would also offer relief to many Pakistanis. Under Mr. Mehsud's leadership the Pakistani Taliban -- a group related to the Afghan Taliban, but which operates independently -- has killed thousands of civilians in Pakistan, mostly through suicide bombings. Mr. Mehsud, a showy and ruthless leader, had a $5 million U.S. government bounty on his head.

While prior reports of his death have proved false, there was a proliferation of accounts of his death Friday from multiple sources, including the militants and a U.S. military official, within hours of the missile attack.

Friday's strike occurred in Danday Darpakhel, a well-known militant stronghold in North Waziristan tribal agency, near the Afghan border.

Pakistani officials said CIA-operated drones fired at least four missiles at a compound that had been built for Mr. Mehsud about a year ago, and which he had used intermittently since then. One Pakistani official, citing intelligence reports, said five militants had been killed including Mr. Mehsud, his uncle and a bodyguard. Another two people were wounded.

The Pakistani official said the drone strike also killed Mr. Mehsud's deputy, Abdullah Behar, who had just taken over from Latif Mahsud, a militant commander detained last month by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Tribesmen said they planned to bury Mr. Mehsud today, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is due to return to Pakistan from London, where he has been holding talks with British officials and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. …

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