On Friday, a United States drone strike killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, the Associated Press reports.
Reuters Tv / Reuters
Mehsud was on U.S.’s most-wanted terrorist list, with a $5 million bounty. He is believed to have been behind a suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan, a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square, and many other attacks in Pakistan.
Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud (left) sits beside a man who is believed to be Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal Al-Balawi, the suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan, in this file still image taken from video released Jan. 9, 2010. Reuters Tv / Reuters
Mehsud, 34, was closely linked to al-Qaeda, and was falsely reported to have been killed in 2010. But Friday, a senior U.S. intelligence official received confirmation of the commander’s death.
Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud (center) sits with other militants in South Waziristan, Oct. 4, 2009. Reuters Tv / Reuters
Four other suspected Taliban militants were killed in Friday’s drone strike, intelligence officials said, including Mehsud’s cousin, uncle, and one of his guards. The fourth victim has not been identified.
Hakimullah Mehsud (facing camera, on left) is seen with his arm around Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud during a news conference in South Waziristan, May 24, 2008. Pakistan / Reuters
Mehsud’s death was also confirmed by two Taliban commanders. A third man said the Taliban would 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 former acting CIA director Michael Morell, who retired in August and has led the drone program.
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said 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,” she said in a statement.
The White House has not released an official statement at this time.
Many protested the attacks, claiming it sabotaged Pakistan’s peace process.
Supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamic organization burn a U.S. flag as they shout slogans during a protest against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan on Nov. 1. Athar Hussain / Reuters
The Taliban had started peace talks with the insurgents, according to intelligence officials and Pakistani militant commanders.
Supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamic organization at a protest against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan on Nov. 1. Mohsin Raza / Reuters
Mehsud gained a reputation as a ruthless organizer of suicide attacks while serving as the Pakistani Taliban’s military chief. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center described him as “the self-proclaimed emir of the Pakistani Taliban.”
Supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamic organization at a protest in Peshawar against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani, Nov. 1. Fayaz Aziz / Reuters