Is Mehsud dead, and if so, who or what killed him?

Baitullah Mehsud

Baitullah Mehsud

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is confusion about the fate of Pakistan’s senior Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud. On August 7, the Pakistani military told the world’s media that an unmanned drone air strike (probably operated by the CIA) had killed Mehsud. The Associated Press reported that a Taliban commander in Pakistan, Kafayat Ullah, had confirmed that “Mehsud and his wife died in the American missile attack in South Waziristan”. Pakistani military officials said they were “reasonably sure” of the accuracy of these reports, but that they did not possess irrefutable “forensic evidence” of Mehsud’s death. Over the weekend, however, other Taliban leaders came forward to contest Ullah’s account. Taliban deputy Hakimullah Mehsud (no relation to Baitullah), and Taliban spokesperson Maulvi Umar, said that Mehsud had escaped the CIA strike without injuries, and that he would come out into the open to prove this once he was certain that such a move “would [not] make him a target”. Even though most Pakistani and Western observers maintain that Mehsud is indeed dead, the strong denials by the Taliban appear to be putting a slight dent in the confidence expressed in earlier reports. Most Pakistani media appear to doubt that Meihsud is dead, or that he was killed in a drone strike. A recent article in The Pakistan Daily advances the popular theory that Mehsud may have died of kidney complications, or during a ground operation by the Pakistani Army, and that the CIA has altered the facts “to get propaganda advantage and somehow justify the brutal banality of the drone bombings”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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