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Have US Predators finally killed Hakimullah Mehsud?

Last updated on: January 16, 2012 10:37 IST

Have US Predators finally killed Hakimullah Mehsud?

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Amir Mir In Islamabad

A year ago, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Hakimullah Mehsud was reported to have been killed in a US drone strike.

But the most-wanted fugitive emerged unscathed. On January 12, reports emerged of his killing in a US Predator drone strike. But is it true?

Amir Mir reports from Islamabad.

Mystery shrouds the reported killing of Pakistan's most-wanted fugitive Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud in a United States drone attack in the North Waziristan tribal agency.

Sections of the Pakistani intelligence community are still unsure about his death. That is due to the fact that he had been pronounced dead several times ever since he was appointed the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief on August 22, 2009 after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud's death.

Although Associated Press claimed citing intercepted radio communications between Taliban militants that Hakimullah had been killed during drone attacks in North Waziristan on January 12, TTP circles have strongly refuted the report.

Five people were killed and three others injured in the January 12 drone attack on two vehicles in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan. Hakimullah is believed to have been amongst those killed in the strike.

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Image: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Hakimullah Mehsud, left


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US Predator drones resumed their strikes on January 10 after almost six weeks

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This was the second drone attack by Central Intelligence Agency-operated spy planes in North Waziristan. US Predator drones had resumed their strikes on January 10 after a pause of almost six weeks.

Tribal sources claimed that the drone fired two missiles and hit a double cabin pick-up vehicle and a car near the Dogga village in Dattakhel Tehsil, 45 kilometres west of Miramshah, the headquarters of the North Waziristan tribal agency.

According to Dattakhel villagers, some men were sitting in their vehicles after performing their Maghrib prayers when they came under attack.

The pick-up vehicle caught fire and four men were killed on the spot. Their badly mutilated bodies were pulled out of the destroyed vehicle later.

Another person was killed in a car that was targeted by a drone. His body was mutilated beyond recognition. There was no way to ascertain the identity of the slain men.

However, it is now believed that one of those killed was Hakimullah.

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Image: A US Predator drone in operation over North Waziristan


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Exactly a year ago, the media said Hakmullah had been killed

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Exactly a year ago the international media reported Hakimullah's death in North Waziristan in a January 14, 2011 US drone attack, saying the missiles struck a compound in the Shaktoi area, where the fugitive Taliban commander was asleep.

It was claimed that Hakimullah had died along with 18 other militants. Although TTP spokesman Azam Tariq denied that the TTP commander had died, he did confirm that Hakimullah had been in the area.

On January 16, 2011, the TTP released an audiotape of Hakimullah, who said: 'Today, on the 16th of January 2011, I am saying it again -- I am alive, I am ok, I am not injured ... when the drone strike took place, I was not present in the area at that time.'

Subsequent rumours claimed he had died of injuries received in the attack.

On January 31, 2011, Pakistan state television, PTV, reported that Hakimullah was injured in a drone attack and died three days later. He was reportedly buried in Orakzai Agency.

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Image: A US drone strike in North Waziristan


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Rumours swirled around Hakimullah's death last year

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Reuters, quoting Pakistani intelligence sources, suggested that while he escaped the initial attack, Hakimullah was killed in another attack on January 17, 2011.

As the TTP rejected these reports, The New York Times claimed that American intelligence was 90 per cent sure that Hakimullah was dead.

On February 9, 2011, media reports -- citing TTP sources -- stated that Hakimullah had indeed been fatally wounded on January 14, 2011 and died en route to Karachi for medical treatment.

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik and unnamed intelligence officials confirmed to Associated Press that Hakimullah had perished, but provided no further details.

While the Taliban released a videotape of Hakimullah on February 28, 2011, officials questioned the authenticity of the tape as the Taliban commander did not provide details on current events.

On April 28, 2011, Pakistani intelligence sources claimed that Hakimullah had been seriously injured in a strike and that his authority in the TTP had been overshadowed by others.

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Image: Hakimullah Mehsud with TTP leaders


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Why the CIA wants Hakimullah killed

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Hakimullah dispelled all speculation when he was seen in a February 28, 2011 execution video of former ISI official Colonel Sultan Ameer Tarar, better known as Colonel Imam.

Whether or not Hakimullah was killed in the January 12, 2012 US drone strike, the fact remains that he is the prime target of American Predators, especially after having been held responsible (on September 2, 2010) for the 2009 suicide attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan that killed six senior CIA agents.

Hakimullah had appeared alongside suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi in a January 2010 video that claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on the CIA office in Afghanistan in retaliation for Baitulluh Mehsud's death.


Image: Video grab shows Hakimullah Mehsud, left, sitting beside a man who is believed to be Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal Al-Balawi, the suicide bomber who killed several CIA agents in Afghanistan
Photographs: Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan via Reuters TV/Files/Reuters

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