Dera Ismail Khan, Aug 26 (ANI): The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has acknowledged that its top leader Baitullah Mehsud was dead, ending weeks of claims and counter-claims over his fate following a US missile strike on his father-in-law's house earlier this month.
It is the first time that the militant group has acknowledged his death.
Two of Baitullah's top aides, Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, called a foreign news agency on Tuesday evening to say that he had died on Sunday of wounds from the August 5 strike near the Afghan border.
"He was wounded. He got the wounds in a drone strike and he was martyred two days ago," The Dawn quoted Hakeemullah, as saying. Rehman later repeated the same statement.
Both also confirmed an earlier Taliban announcement that Hakeemullah was now leading the Pakistani Taliban, while Waliur Rehman would lead the movement's wing in South Waziristan.
The Taliban had insisted for weeks that Baitullah Mehsud was still alive following the missile strike, while US and Pakistani officials said he was almost certainly dead and a leadership struggle had ensued.
Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman, who had served as top aides to Baitullah, said they were calling together -- handing the telephone back and forth to each other-to dispel reports of disunity in the Taliban leadership. They spoke to an AP reporter who had interviewed both and recognised their voices.
"Our presence together shows that we do not have any differences," Rehman said.
The 28-year-old Hakeemullah commanded three tribal regions and had a reputation as Baitullah's most ferocious deputy. (ANI)