The Pakistani Taliban confirmed on Tuesday, that its chief Hakimullah Mehsud had died of injuries sustained in a US drone strike, ending weeks of speculation over his fate.Taliban sources based in the Aurakzai tribal region told TV news channels that 28-year-old Mehsud was severely injured in a drone attack in Shaktoi area of North Waziristan Agency on January 14.
The sources claimed Mehsud died recently near Multan city in Punjab province while being taken to Karachi for treatment. His body was taken back to the tribal belt, they said. However, there were also reports that Mehsud had died almost two weeks ago and was buried in his father-in-law's village in Aurakzai Agency.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Azam Tariq is yet to issue statement about Mehsud's death. Tariq has been insisting that Mehsud is alive and at an undisclosed location. The Taliban sources also said commander Noor Jamal alias Maulana Toofan had been named as the new chief of the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistani and US security officials had been saying for the past two weeks that they were certain Mehsud had died of injuries sustained in a US drone attack. Shortly after reports of Mehsud's death first emerged in mid-January, the Taliban issued two audio messages in which the dreaded commander claimed he was alive.
The US stepped up drone attacks targeting Mehsud after he was shown in a video with a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA operatives in an attack on a forward base in Khost province of Afghanistan. Mehsud was born in Kotkai village of South Waziristan Agency and was educated in a seminary. He fought against US forces in Afghanistan after the Taliban regime in Kabul was ousted in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Hakimullah later rose to prominence as the commander of thousands of Taliban fighters in the Kurram, Aurakzai and Khyber tribal regions. He also imposed 'jiziya' on members of the minority Sikh community in the tribal belt. Mehsud, who claimed responsibility for several audacious suicide attacks, including one on the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, was made chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone attack in August last year.