- Title: FILE: Pakistan says Taliban chief is likely dead
- Date: 8th August 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS LOCATIONS IN WAZIRISTAN, PAKISTAN (FILE) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Pashto) PAKISTANI TALIBAN CHIEF BAITULLAH MEHSUD, IN WHITE SHIRT AND DARK-COLOURED ROUND CAP, SITTING WITH HIS BACK TO THE CAMERA TALKING TO REPORTERS, SAYING: "I want Sharia (Islamic) system in Pakistan. That is what our Movement is all about." REPORTER ASKING QUESTION. TALIBAN GETTING OUT OF VEHICLE FLYING THE TALIBAN FLAG TALIBAN COMING OUT OF A GATE VARIOUS OF TALIBAN PATROLLING A LARGE COMPOUND EXCHANGING PLEASANTRIES WITH ONE ANOTHER TWO TALIBAN EMBRACING EACH OTHER A YOUNG ARMED TALIBAN LISTENING TO MOTIVATIONAL SONG ANOTHER TALIBAN, SITTING ON A BOULDER, LISTENING TO MOTIVATIONAL SONG TALIBAN , SOME MASKED, ARRIVING IN VEHICLE TALIBAN TALKING ON WIRELESS PHONE MASKED TALIBAN ON GUARD SOUTH
- Embargoed: 23rd August 2009 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9HWN82DTUUYPOJ3JBPK2RH245
- Story Text: Pakistan believes Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million U.S. dollar bounty on his head, was probably killed with his wife and bodyguards in a missile attack two days ago, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Friday (August 7).
An intelligence officer in South Waziristan told Reuters that Mehsud's funeral had already taken place, while Pakistani media cited their own security sources saying Mehsud was dead.
Diplomats in Islamabad say Mehsud's death would mark a major coup for Pakistan, but many doubt it will help Western troops fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, as most of his focus has been on attacking Pakistan's government and security forces.
Interior Minister Malik told reporters on Friday they "suspected" Mehsud was killed in the missile strike, but added "we don't have material evidence to confirm it."
Mehsud declared himself leader of the Pakistan Taliban, grouping around 13 factions in the northwest in late 2007.
His fighters have been behind a wave of suicide attacks inside Pakistan and on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.
He is accused of being behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, a charge he has denied. Conspiracy theories abound over who killed the former prime minister.
A U.S. official told Reuters there was reason to believe Mehsud was dead.
U.S. missile attacks on Mehsud territory in South Waziristan became more frequent after Pakistan ordered a military offensive against him in June.
Neither the Pakistani nor U.S. government has confirmed such attacks due to sensitivities over violation of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty.
Intelligence officials and relatives had confirmed earlier that Mehsud's second wife had been killed in the missile strike that targeted her father's home in an outlying settlement close to Makeen village in the South Waziristan tribal region.
A relative of Mehsud's dead wife had initially said the Taliban leader wasn't present when the missiles struck, but rumours that he had either been wounded or killed refused to go away.
Intelligence agents had also picked up signs that leaders of various Taliban factions planned to gather for a shura, or council meeting, somewhere in Waziristan later on Friday.
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