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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hakimullah and his Co-Taliban Chief say Mehsud is Dead

Al Jazeera reports online

The Pakistani Taliban has admitted that Baitullah Mehsud, the group's militant leader, died after being hurt in a missile attack carried out by a US pilotless drone earlier this month.
Two Taliban commanders said on Tuesday that Mehsud died on Sunday after he was wounded on August 5.

"Amir Sahab [Baitullah] was injured in the drone attack but he was martyred only on Sunday," Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali ur-Rehman told reporters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Hakimullah said that the Taliban had denied the death since early August because Mehsud had been only injured and under treatment. Rehman confirmed the statement.

Hakimullah Mehsud is said to be a powerful commander who operates from the Orakzai tribal district. Contrary to reports, I don't think that the Taliban, a collection of tribes, will be particularly weakened by the loss of one leader, since they will have lieutenants in place who will regroup to continue their fight. They have modern technology and the advantage of knowing the terrain, along with local family loyalties which count for a lot in the mountain villages.

McClatchy attempts to differentiate between the two Taliban chiefs, describing Hakimullah as

a trigger-happy tribesman with the reputation of a thug.

Maulana Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the other Taliban leader, who is described as more sedate, has control of the Waziristan region. McClatchy theorises that Rehman will hold the real power in terms of the area he will control.

Update 27.8.2009; The Dawn writes of impressions of a 2008 visit to meet Hakimullah Behsud as part of a press pack.

The Taliban both sides of the AfPak border are in contact, and though the Pakistani Taliban often targets the Pakistani authorities/military, and the Dawn writer notes Hakimullah castigating the provincial government of the NWFP, the recent reported conversation between Hakimullah, Rehman and reporters in which Hakimullah talked of his "men" being close to Paris, New York and London, demonstrates international aspirations for the Taliban, and ever- closer links with Al-Qaeda.

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