In this Nov. 26, 2008 photo taken in Orakzai tribal region of Pakistan shows Hakimullah Mehsud who has become the leader of Pakistani Taliban faction after death of Baitullah Mehsud.-AP
Tehrik-i-Taliban chief Hakeemullah Mehsud dead?
WASHINGTON: US intelligence agencies believe the newly named leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, might have been killed in a firefight with a rival faction weeks ago, officials said on Friday.
Militants tapped Hakimullah to replace the group’s previous leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by a missile fired from a CIA-piloted drone aircraft in his South Waziristan stronghold on the Afghan border on August 5.
Hakimullah’s death, which officials said has yet to be confirmed definitively, would be another setback for a group that has mostly been fighting against Pakistani security forces but also sends militants to join the battle against US and NATO forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
‘We’re pretty clear that we think he’s dead,’ a US defence official said of Hakimullah.
A counterterrorism official said: ‘While there’s no final confirmation of his death, it’s a distinct possibility.’
The officials, who spoke about the intelligence on condition of anonymity, said Hakimullah was believed to have been shot weeks ago during a clash with a rival group in South Waziristan.
US intelligence agencies are still reviewing information to make a final call on his death.
Baitullah Mehsud, who led an alliance of 13 militant groups known as the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, was blamed for a series of suicide bombings in Pakistan, including the one that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Hakimullah had been described as even more aggressive than Baitullah.
Washington believes the Taliban has been weakened by infighting between factions vying to take command since Baitullah Mehsud’s death.
‘The point is there is a succession crisis going on,’ the defence official said, adding there were other contenders to lead the movement. ‘There’s a variety of factions within the Mehsud tribe.’
Military aircraft and artillery have been hitting Taliban targets in Waziristan for months, and it is unclear if and when ground forces will move in force.
As part of its campaign to weaken the Taliban, US officials said the Pakistani army has been trying to negotiate with various factions, trying to split them off from harder-line groups loyal to Baitullah.
Several top members of his group, including one of his aides and the spokesman from the Swat valley, have also been captured in recent months.
The Pakistani army believes it has cleared nearly all of the former Taliban bastion in Swat, 80 miles northwest of Islamabad, with an offensive launched in April.
While largely forced out of Swat and Bajaur, there are still thousands of well-armed fighters in South Waziristan and other regions.-Reuters
Faqir Mohammad will be sowrn in as a Chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,TTP, if Hakeemullah is realy dead . This is a high chance. But the media persons do not know exactly after how many days they have to prepare a story of suspected death next Taliban Chief of Pakistan. But it is sure that after so many casualties, the Talibans in Pakistans hardly changed their mind set to give up the way of Violence in order to be humane, rational and fit for civil soceity in the days of present advancement.