Stream of Reports Say Pakistani Taliban Leader Died in Drone Strike

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from The New York Times,

Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of pakistan taliban, center

An American drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, on Friday, according to Pakistani intelligence officials and militant commanders in the tribal belt.

If confirmed, his death would be a major achievement for the covert C.I.A. program at a time when drones have come under renewed scrutiny over civilian casualties in both Pakistan and the United States.

While prior reports of Mr. Mehsud’s death have proved false, and the Pakistani Taliban offered no comment, there was a proliferation of accounts of his death on Friday from multiple sources, including the militants, within hours of the missile attack. Mr. Mehsud, a showy and ruthless militant leader whose group has been responsible for the death of thousands of civilians across Pakistan as well as many soldiers, had a $5 million United States government bounty on his head.

The strike occurred in Danday Darpakhel, a well-known Pakistani Taliban stronghold in North Waziristan tribal agency, near the Afghan border.

Pakistani intelligence officials said that American drones fired at least four missiles toward a compound that had been constructed for Mr. Mehsud about a year ago, and which he has used intermittently since then.

A government official in Peshawar, citing intelligence reports, said five militant commanders had been killed in the attack, including Mr. Mehsud, his uncle and a bodyguard, and two wounded.

The strike killed Mr. Mehsud’s deputy, Abdullah Behar, who had just taken over from Latif Mahsud, a militant commander who was detained by American forces in Afghanistan last month, the official said.

“The chances of Hakimullah Mehsud being killed are pretty high,” said another Pakistani official, requesting he not be named. “Our reports said that he was there at the time of the drone strike.”

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