Close aide confirms Mehsud's death in US missile strike

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Dera Ismail Khan (Pakistan), Aug.7 (ANI): A close aide of Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud confirmed on Friday that the latter has been killed in a U.S. missile strike.

"I confirm that Baitullah Mehsud and his wife died in the American missile attack in South Waziristan," Kafayat Ullah told The Associated Press by telephone. He would not give any further details.

Earlier, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said that country's intelligence sources have confirmed the killing of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

Xinhua quoted Qureshi, as saying that the government is still in the process of ground verification of the death of Pakistan's enemy number one.

Earlier in the day, tribal sources had confirmed that Mehsud had been killed in a drone strike.

According to sources, the Namaz-e-Janaza (funeral prayer) for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief was held in a tribal village, and the Taliban group would elect his successor on Friday.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik was also quoted as saying that Mehsud may have been killed in pilot-less US drone aircraft attack on his residence.

Mehsud is wanted by the Pakistani Government for his alleged involvement in the December 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and other terrorist attacks, while US government had announced reward of five million US dollars for this head.

According to an NYT report, officials in Washington and Islamabad were scrambling to make sense of communications intercepts and other intelligence that seemed to indicate that Mehsud might have been killed in the strike.

By Thursday evening, American officials said they were growing increasingly confident that the Taliban leader was dead.

Still, they cautioned that it might be weeks before they are certain, and they may never gain access to the remote location in South Waziristan to perform DNA tests.

"There is reason to believe that reports of his death may be true, but it can't be confirmed at this time," said an American official with access to classified intelligence reports.

The militant leader seemed to take pleasure in taunting Pakistani officials and holding news conferences to demonstrate the inability of officials in Islamabad to rein in his network.

He pledged to attack Washington, but American officials did not take the threat seriously. Still, his network is believed to have close ties to al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The CIA made the killing Mehsud one of its top priorities this year, partly at the urging of the Pakistan Government. (ANI)

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