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Friday, 7 August 2009

Baitullah Mehsud

The media is in a tailspin over whether or not Tehreek-e-Taliban head Baitullah Mehsud is dead. The Taliban leader was a fearsome foe and held much sway amongst his tribe. It was said that he was responsible for Benazir Bhutto's assassination. I was asked to profile him for television a short while ago.

Somehow, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik was able to confirm the death of Mehsud's second wife. We can only be sure about Mehsud when we have conclusive evidence from those concerned.

Though Mehsud was a mighty power in the region, the Taliban are a collection of tribes, each with a nominated leader and often at odds with each other. Certainly in Waziristan itself, there are other highly armed factions. Mehsud's fighters were not engaged so much in frontline activity anyway; up towards the Afghan-Pakistan border, there are other Taliban factions engaged.

And while one leader may pass, there will be others to take his place as Reuters discusses.

UPDATE 12.46; Mehsud's second has confirmed his death.

UPDATE 8.8.09 11.30am; Hakim Ullah, one of the touted seconds to Mehsud and possible successor in the event of his death, has told news outlets his commander Baitullah Mehsud is still alive. The BBC has run it, as has AP

UPDATE 8.8.09 6.08; AP, HuffPo's preferred supplier of immediate information, discusses likely Mehsud successors; in any event, they are significant players in the region so worth noting

UPDATE 9.08.09; Geo News says that Pakistani Interior Minister says that within 48 hrs he will give confirmation of Mehsud's death.

The back and forth on this subject shows how war can move from the ground to the PR machinery.

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