BREAKING: Drone Kills Leader of Pakistani Taliban (Updated)
The BBC says that a high-ranking official has confirmed that Mehsud was killed in a drone strike that hit Mehsud’s vehicle with four missiles and which killed four other people, including two of his bodyguards.
The New York Times cites Pakistani government officials saying that five militant commanders had been killed in the attack, including Mr. Mehsud, his uncle and a bodyguard, and two wounded.
While Pakistan’s government “strongly condemned” the drone attack and some fear a violent backlash, “others welcomed news of Mr. Mehsud’s demise. Athar Abbas, a former army general and spokesman, said in a television interview that the United States may have ‘helped Pakistan, by eliminating a person who was damaging the state of Pakistan,’” according to the Times. “[M]any believe Mehsud’s death will leave the field open for groups that are known to have publicly favoured a rapprochement with Pakistan,” says the BBC.
Mehsud had a $5 million FBI bounty on his head and was thought to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and the orchestration of “a major suicide bombing against a C.I.A. base in southern Afghanistan in 2009 that killed seven Americans and two other people,” according to the Times.
The New York Times reports that a U.S. drone has killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.
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.
Read more here.