Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2009 file photo, Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, left, is seen with his comrade Waliur Rehman during his meeting with media in Sararogha, a Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. Intelligence officials say the leader of the Pakistani Taliban was one of three people killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.The officials say agents sent to the site of the attack in the North Waziristan tribal area Friday confirmed the death of the militant leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mehsud, File)
Officials: US drone kills Pakistani Taliban leader
First Published Nov 01 2013 09:37 pm • Last Updated Nov 01 2013 09:37 pm

PESHAWAR, Pakistan • A U.S. drone strike Friday killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in a major blow to the group that came after the government said it had started peace talks with the insurgents, according to intelligence officials and militant commanders.

Mehsud, who was on U.S. most-wanted terrorist lists with a $5 million bounty, is believed to have been behind a deadly suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan, a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square and other brazen assaults in Pakistan that killed thousands of civilians and security forces.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The ruthless, 34-year-old commander who was closely allied with al-Qaida was widely reported to have been killed in 2010 — only to resurface later.

But a senior U.S. intelligence official said Friday the U.S. received positive confirmation that Mehsud had been killed. Two Pakistani intelligence officials also confirmed his death, as did two Taliban commanders who saw his mangled body after the strike. A third commander said the Taliban would likely choose Mehsud’s successor on Saturday.

"If true, the death of Hakimullah Mehsud will be a significant blow to the Pakistani Taliban ... , an organization that poses a serious threat to the Pakistani people and to Americans in Pakistan," said Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director who retired in August and has championed the drone program. His comments came in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement the White House was aware of the reports of Mehsud’s death. "If true, this would be a serious loss for the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan," the statement said.

There is increased tension between Islamabad and Washington over the drone attacks, and Pakistan is also trying to strike a peace deal with the Taliban.

The group’s deputy leader was killed in a drone strike in May, and one of Mehsud’s top deputies was arrested in Afghanistan last month.

The intelligence officials and militant commanders said Friday’s drone attack that killed Mehsud hit a compound in the village of Dande Derpa Khel in the North Waziristan tribal area. Four other suspected militants were killed, they said, including Mehsud’s cousin, uncle and one of his guards. They did not have the identity of the fourth victim.

At least four missiles struck just after a vehicle in which Mehsud was riding had entered the compound, the Taliban commanders said, adding that a senior group of militants was discussing the peace talks at a nearby mosque shortly before the attack.


story continues below
story continues below

All the officials and the militant commanders spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The CIA and the White House declined to comment.

Pakistan’s tribal region is dangerous to visit, making it difficult for journalists to independently confirm information on drone attacks there.

The Pakistani government was swift to condemn the drone strike, although that comment came before news of Mehsud’s death was reported.

"These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is an across the board consensus in Pakistan that these drone strikes must end," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

It’s a particularly sensitive time for the government, which has been trying to cut a peace deal with the militants to end years of fighting in northwestern Pakistan.

During a visit Thursday to London, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said talks with the Pakistani Taliban had started, though he gave no other details.

Sharif met with President Barack Obama in Washington on Oct. 23 and pressed him to end the strikes. The U.S. has shown no sign that it intends to stop using what it considers a vital tool to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The attacks are extremely unpopular in Pakistan, where many people view them as an infringement on Pakistani sovereignty and say too many innocent civilians are killed in the process. Pakistani officials regularly criticize the strikes in public, although the government is known to have secretly supported at least some of the attacks.

Popular politician Imran Khan has been one of the most vocal critics of the strikes. His party runs the government in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and has threatened to block trucks carrying supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan unless the attacks stop.

Officials from parties seen as more sympathetic to the Taliban, including Khan’s, criticized Friday’s attack, saying it was a deliberate attempt by the U.S. to sabotage the peace process.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.