No commentary, article below. He is said to have died in a drone strike according to communiques from the Pakistan Taliban.
(Reuters) - The chief of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Friday, security sources and a senior Taliban commander said.
Hakimullah Mehsud was one of Pakistan's most wanted men with a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head. He led an insurgency from a secret hideout in North Waziristan, the Taliban's mountainous stronghold on the Afghan border.
"We confirm with great sorrow that our esteemed leader was martyred in a drone attack," a senior Taliban commander told Reuters.
The killing is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Pakistani Taliban, a fragmented group aligned with their Afghan namesakes who have staged attacks against armed forces and civilians in their fight to topple Pakistan's government.
The death will likely scupper the immediate prospect of peace talks between the Taliban and the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who won a landslide election victory in May by promising to bring peace to Pakistan.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department had no comment on Mehsud's death.
His funeral will be held on Saturday in Miranshah, the Taliban commander said - an event likely to stir tensions further in the already volatile region.
The nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people has been plagued by militant violence, including the homegrown Taliban insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
The Taliban have already been weakened by a series of recent counter-attacks. In May, a U.S. drone strike killed Mehsud's second-in-command, and one of his most trusted lieutenants was captured in Afghanistan last month.
The government never clarified which factions of the Taliban they were willing to talk to or whether they would comply with the Taliban's demands to release their prisoners and withdraw the army from Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The Pakistani Taliban acts as an umbrella for various jihadist groups operating in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt, who are separate to but allied to the Afghan Taliban.
On Friday, several intelligence, army and Taliban sources across Pakistan confirmed Mehsud, believed to be in his mid-30s, had been killed in the drone strike in North Waziristan.
Four security officials confirmed his death to Reuters. His bodyguard and driver were also killed, they said.
The drones fired four missiles at a compound in Danda Darpa Khel, a village about 5 km (3 miles) from the regional capital of Miranshah, sources said. Mehsud had been attending a gathering of 25 Taliban leaders gathering to discuss the government's offer of talks, they said.
The information could not be independently verified because journalists have no access to the affected areas.
The government, which officially condemns U.S. drone strikes, issued its usual statement denouncing the attack but did not comment on reports of Mehsud's death.
Mehsud was brought into the insurgency by his cousin Qari Hussain, who was the Taliban's top trainer for suicide bombers until he was killed in a drone strike.
He lacked formal education or religious training, but Mehsud was a popular figure known for his jokes and interest in modern technology, said Reuters journalists who had met him.
He was the driver for the former head of the Pakistani Taliban, and then rose through the ranks to become the movement's spokesman.
Mehsud was known for his emotional outbursts during conversations. He also often referred respectfully to Mullah Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban, as "emir" or "leader".
Mehsud took over the Pakistani Taliban in August 2009 after a drone strike killed the previous leader, his mentor.
Mehsud had two wives but moved frequently because of his fear of U.S. drone strikes.
In recent months, analysts say rivalries with other Taliban commanders over revenues from extortion and kidnapping had sharpened, rising tensions within the fragmented movement.
The United States had offered $5 million for Mehsud's capture after he appeared in a farewell video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan in 2009.
U.S. prosecutors have charged him with involvement in the attack. The Taliban are also accused of plotting to bomb Times Square in New York in 2010.
Although Mehsud's death will bring calls for revenge, it may make negotiations with the militants easier in the long-run, said Saifullah Mahsud, director of the Pakistani think-tank FATA Research Center.
"Hakimullah Mehsud was a very controversial figure and he had very tough demands," he said.
But the strike did not signal the end of the Pakistani Taliban, he said.
"It's a very decentralized organization. They've lost leaders to drone strikes before."
(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, and Hafiz Wazir in Wana; Writing by Katharine Houreld, Editing by Maria Golovnina and Angus MacSwan)
The US is getting pretty good at this, now they just need to lower the collateral damage from drone strikes. If this attack prevents an agreement between Paksitan and Taliban so much the better.
Faktrl is Best Pony
10th September 2007
Does this mean we can finally remove the main troop element? (wishful thinking)
"I'd shush her zephyr." ~ Zephyr.
A breath of fresh air ... and at a good time.
Although the Pakistani government cannot be held accountable for the kill (they have been denouncing those attacks ever since) but the militants are ass-brained and will likely initiate a new phase of suicidal bombings.
If this incident does manage to sabotage the notion of negotiation, that would be further better. Give them a chance to live, and they will take your chance to live.
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