Pakistan Foreign Minister: Taliban Chief Baitullah Mehsud is Dead
By Ayaz Gul
06 August 2009
Pakistan's foreign minister says intelligence sources have confirmed that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by Wednesday's missile strike in the South Waziristan tribal region.
Family sources had immediately confirmed the killing of two people in the Wednesday attack including the wife of fugitive Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
But, because of the remoteness of the Taliban-held district in South Waziristan it was not immediately possible to confirm whether Mehsud was also present in the house when the missiles hit it.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad on Friday Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the reports about Mehsud's death are correct.
"And to be 100 percent sure we are going for ground verification and once the ground verification reconfirms, which I think is almost confirmed, then we will be 100 percent sure," he said.
Taliban commander Mehsud organized some 13 militant groups under his leadership in late 2007 and named it the Tehrike Taliban Pakistan.
Pakistani authorities blame the outlawed terror network for a wave of suicide bombings that has killed scores of security forces and civilians in recent years.
Earlier this year, the government declared Baitullah Mehsud the country's "enemy number-one" and offered a reward of over $600,000 for information leading to his arrest or death.
The Pakistani military has carried out frequent air and ground strikes in recent weeks against Mehsud's terrorist network in the Waziristan region. It is a known safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists who are allegedly using the territory for cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.
Missile strikes by unmanned U.S. aircraft against militants on the Pakistani territory are also believed to have increased.
Pakistan opposes such strikes as a violation of its sovereignty and says killings of civilians in U.S drone attacks is fueling public anger against the government and the United States.
But analysts like former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan Rustum Shah Mohmand say the death of the Mehsud is likely to increase drone attacks on militant targets inside Pakistan.
"This would be cited as a triumph for the drone strategy and they [United States] would turn around and tell the Pakistani critics that, look if we have not been launching these drone attacks these eliminations and deaths would not have been possible," Mohmand said.
It is widely believed that the U.S Central Intelligence Agency operates the unmanned spy aircraft or drones capable of launching missile strikes. But U.S officials have, so far, not officially commented on any of the nearly 50 attacks carried out inside Pakistan since the beginning of last year.
Critics of the Pakistani government say the attacks are being carried out as a result of a deal between Islamabad and Washington. But Pakistani officials reject these suggestions.
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