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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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Uninvited guests crash White House dinner

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Tareq Salahi (R) and his wife Michaele Salahi arrive for a state dinner in honor of India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House in Washington November 24, 2009. The Secret Service is investigating how the uninvited couple was admitted to U.S. President Barack Obama’s White House state dinner, penetrating layers of security and mingling with VIP guests.

Uninvited guests crash White House dinner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Secret Service is investigating how an uninvited couple was admitted to U.S. President Barack Obama’s White House state dinner, penetrating layers of security, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The agency charged with protecting the president and other high-level officials is conducting a comprehensive review of the security breach on Tuesday at the dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, U.S. Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said.

The Washington Post first reported that a northern Virginia couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, not on the official guest list, crashed the White House party but were never seated at a table in the South Lawn tent where the dinner was held.

The White House has asked the Secret Service for a full review of what happened, an official said.

“An initial finding has identified one of our checkpoints that did not follow proper procedures to ensure that the two individuals that were named in the Washington Post story were on the invited guests list,” Donovan said. But he said no was at the dinner was ever in danger.

“I want to stress that these individuals went through magnetometers and several other levels of screenings just as all of the guests attending the dinner did,” he said.

“We don’t rely on just magnetometers or the level of screenings,” he added.” That’s why we have the agents with our protectees at all times.”

The couple, described by The Washington Post as aspiring reality-TV stars and polo-playing socialites, were seen arriving at the White House.

According to the Post, the uninvited guests were in the same room as the Obamas and Prime Minister Singh, but it is not known if they met.

A dozen pictures posted on Facebook appear to show the couple posing with dinner guests including Vice President Joe Biden, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, CBS News anchor Katie Couric, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

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