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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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Pakistan adjourns Mumbai case for a month

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Pakistan adjourns Mumbai case for a month

A Pakistani court due to hear the case against five Islamist militants accused of involvement in the attacks that killed 166 people in the Indian city of Mumbai adjourned for a month without charges being read.

India wants forceful action by Pakistan to bring to justice leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group it says were behind the Nov. 26-29 attacks before formally resuming a peace process that was frozen during the subsequent tensions.

The government’s prosecutor, Malik Rab Nawaz Noon, said formal charges against the accused had not yet been framed and Saturday’s proceedings ended after some statements were recorded. A member of the prosecution team and a defence lawyer said the court adjourned until Aug. 29.

The media and public have been barred from hearings being held at the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, the garrison town next door to Islamabad, and lawyers from both sides have divulged little during pre-trial proceedings.

Across the border in India, a trial in Mumbai opened dramatically earlier this week when Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the only one of 10 Pakistani gunmen captured alive, pleaded guilty and asked to be hanged.

Having sent a dossier to New Delhi earlier this month, Pakistan has said it is waiting for more information from India to support the prosecution case, though Indian officials say all relevant information has been passed on. Security concerns were cited as the reason for holding the trial inside the jail, though critics say the secrecy fuelled suspicions that Pakistani intelligence agencies don’t want any relationships with the jihadis to be aired in public.

The suspects on trial at Adiala include Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, and four others Hammad Amin, Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu al Qama and Shahid Jameel Riaz.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik earlier this month released photographs of the men along with 13 other suspects who have still to be caught.

Six U.S. citizens were among 22 foreigners killed during the assault on two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a restaurant and railway station in Mumbai.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation provided critical support in the Indian probe.

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on Thursday he was unsure whether U.S. officials had asked to attend the hearings at the Rawalpindi prison as observers, and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad had still to respond to queries on whether such a request had been lodged.

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