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White House declines to confirm death of Taliban chief in Pakistan

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File photo of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2004. The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike, Aug. 7, 2009.

White House declines to confirm death of Taliban chief in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) — The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike.

“The United States cannot confirm that he has been killed in a drone attack, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

However, the spokesman said that “There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead.”


1bFile photo of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2004. The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike, Aug. 7, 2009.

“Baitullah Mehsud is somebody who has well earned his label as a murderous thug. … He has killed scores of innocent men, women and children and is supposed to have plotted the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. If he is dead, without a doubt, the people of Pakistan will be safer as a result,” Gibbs said.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in Islamabad on Thursday that the Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mahsud was killed in the missile attack on Wednesday. He said “We have some information, but they don’t have material evidence to confirm it.”

Mehsud has been the leader since 2007 of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a coalition of Taliban factions loyal to Afghanistan’s Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. An ally of al-Qaida, Mehsud commands as many as 20,000 fighters in Pakistan’s rugged northwestern frontier region and has directed or supported numerous suicide bombings in Pakistan, including a deadly attack in 2008 on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

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Body handed over in Iraq confirmed as British hostage

Iraq The Elite

Body handed over in Iraq confirmed as British hostage

LONDON  – British experts have identified a body handed over in Baghdad as security guard Alec MacLachlan, one of five British hostages seized in 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday.

The kidnappers handed over the body on Wednesday to Iraqi authorities. They transferred it to British officials who carried out forensic tests to confirm the man’s identity.

“It is with the deepest regret that the body passed to the British embassy today is now discovered to be that of Alec MacLachlan,” Brown told reporters.

MacLachlan was one of four security guards seized with computer engineer Peter Moore in Baghdad in 2007.

The bodies of two guards, who had been shot, were handed over in June. British officials said in July that MacLachlan and another security guard, Alan McMenemy, were very likely to have been killed. They believe Moore is still alive.

“We will pursue these hostage-takers. There is no justification for what they have done,” Brown said.

“We are working with the Iraqi government at every point to ensure that we get information to the relatives and we get the return of the others and at the same time we bring the hostage takers to justice,” he said.

“We are demanding of the hostage takers that they now give us information about the whereabouts of Alan McMenemy and return Peter Moore, who we still believe to be alive, as soon as is possible,” he added.

CONCERN OVER REMAINING HOSTAGES

Moore and his bodyguards were taken by a Shi’ite militant group from the Iraqi Finance Ministry at the height of sectarian bloodshed that killed tens of thousands after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Canadian security company GardaWorld, the guards’ employer, said confirmation of MacLachlan’s death was “deeply upsetting for the family and friends of Alec and for GardaWorld.”

“We continue to be deeply concerned for the remaining hostages and are doing everything we can to achieve their release,” it said in a statement.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Wednesday that the British government remained in close contact with people in Iraq who might be able to secure the release of the hostages.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters on Wednesday that Iraqi authorities had “initial information that Peter Moore is alive.”

Since the Britons were seized, several videos of them in captivity have emerged. In March, Britain’s Channel 4 News television said a video showed a healthy-looking Moore.

In February 2008, another video featuring Moore was aired by Dubai-based Al Arabiya television in which he called on Brown to free nine Iraqis in return for the hostages’ freedom.

Britain joined the United States in invading Iraq in 2003, but has now withdrawn almost all its troops.


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