A day after reports that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a United States drone attack in North Waziristan, the militant group has said he is alive and the speculation about his death was a ruse to locate his whereabouts.
Unnamed Pakistani security and intelligence officials were quoted by a section of the media on Sunday as saying that Mehsud had died in a drone attack in Dattakhel area in North Waziristan Agency on January 12.
The region has witnessed numerous drone strikes.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told reporters in the country's northwest that reports of Mehsud's death were false.
"There is no truth in reports about his death. However, he is a human being and can die any time. He is a mujahid and we wish him martyrdom," he said.
Two unnamed senior Taliban commanders and close aides of Mehsud told The News daily that the Taliban chief was alive. They said reports about his death were part of a "plan to provoke Hakimullah to surface and approach the media".
Other Taliban sources in North Waziristan told the paper that the January 12 drone attack had killed nine people. The sources said a majority of those killed were Turkmen.
"As far as I know, most of the victims of the January 12 attack were foreigners. There was nothing for Hakimullah to do in a remote area like Dattakhel," a source was quoted as saying.
Unnamed Pakistani security officials were quoted by The Express Tribune as saying that they were not "100 per cent sure" that Mehsud was killed and were probing the matter.
Mehsud became Pakistani Taliban chief after his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike in August 2009.