Pakistan Taliban say Baitullah Mehsud is dead

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. South Waziristan is at bottom left.

Baitullah Mehsud, amīr (leader) of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is dead, said two Taliban leaders in a phone call to the BBC. Mehsud was reportedly killed on August 5, 2009, during a U.S. drone attack on South Waziristan; however, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was recently chosen as Baitullah's successor, and Wali-ur-Rehman told the BBC that Mehsud had died on Sunday, August 23, 2009 of injuries sustained on August 5.

MQ-9 Reaper drone

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik delayed giving official confirmation and asked for patience and an announcement by ISPR or other agencies. Major General Athar Abbas, ISPR spokesman, and Robert Gibbs of the White House had said that his death could not be confirmed although U.S. National Security Adviser James L. Jones had claimed that there was "pretty conclusive" evidence that proved Baitullah Mehsud had been killed and that he was 90% sure of it.

Mehsud formed the TTP from an alliance of about five pro-Taliban groups in December 2007, and commanded up to 5,000 fighters. Pakistan blamed him for numerous attacks including the assassination in 2007 of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan and wife of President Asif Ali Zardari, according to Bloomberg News. The U.S. offered a US$5 million bounty for his capture. According to the BBC, Pakistan had been unable to provide tangible evidence of his death because of the "remote and hostile terrain" of South Waziristan.