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Pakistan minister says Taliban leader Mehsud dead

2Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud speaks to reporters in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region in this May 24, 2008 file photo.

Pakistan minister says Taliban leader Mehsud dead

LONDON (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday it was “pretty certain” Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a missile attack two days ago.

“It is pretty certain now that he is dead. Various government agencies have reported so, his own followers have said so, there are people who have been to the funeral and are witness to the burial,” Qureshi told BBC radio.

“It is a significant development. He was the principal personality leading the Taliban movement in Pakistan,” Qureshi said, predicting an internal power struggle for his succession.

“It will be difficult to replace him in the short run because he had a lot of command, he had popularity which no other Taliban leader enjoys. He had quite a firm grip on various factions and there is no other personality who could replace him.”

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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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U.N. not to name culprits in Bhutto assassination

in.reuters.com

U.N. not to name culprits in Bhutto assassination

ISLAMABAD  – The U.N. team conducting an inquiry into the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will not seek to name culprits, the commission’s head said on Friday, lowering expectations from the outset.

The three-member team arrived in Pakistan on Thursday for its first visit as part of a probe into the circumstances surrounding the attack that killed Bhutto after an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi city on Dec. 27, 2007.

Conspiracy theories abound over who was behind the assasination, but the head of the commission, Chile’s U.N. ambassador Heraldo Munoz, sought to play down expectations about what it would ultimately publish in its findings at the end of December.

“If you think that there will be smoking guns in terms of names, our report is not that,” Munoz told reporters in the Pakistani capital.

“We will try to establish the truth….anything else is beyond our realm,” he said.

Any criminal investigation will be up to Pakistani authorities, but the commission’s findings will hopefully be able to complement the government’s efforts, Munoz said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set up the commission at the request of the coalition government, led by Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

The previous government, headed by allies of former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf, blamed Pakistani Taliban leader and al Qaeda ally Baitullah Mehsud for Bhutto’s slaying.

Munoz and his team on Thursday met with Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who is now Pakistan’s president after leading the PPP to victory in elections in early 2008.

Speculation lingers that Bhutto was the victim of a plot by allies of Musharraf, who did not want her to come to power.

Munoz did not rule out attempting to interview Musharraf, but stressed that any cooperation with his team would be voluntary.

“He … is a prominent figure of recent Pakistani history, and he would probably have important things to say,” Munoz said.

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