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Baitullah Mehsud is dead: Arrested Taliban spokesman

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 10:16

Islamabad: A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban who was arrested by security forces a day ago told investigators that top militant leader Baitullah Mehsud had died in a US missile attack, intelligence officials said Tuesday.

Maulvi Omar of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a loose alliance of more than a dozen militant groups, was Monday night detained in Mohmand district in the country`s ungoverned tribal belt that borders Afghanistan.

"Maulvi Omar and two of his colleagues were moving towards Bajaur (district) in a car when troops assisted by militiamen cornered them," an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. He did not identify Omar`s associates.

Omar used to claim credit for most of the terrorist attacks carried out by the Taliban militants across Pakistan. However, he stopped calling reporters in recent months after government forces stepped up counterinsurgency operations in the lawless tribal region.

Hours after his capture, the authorities moved Omar to Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, for interrogation.

"In the initial probe he admitted that Baitullah Mehsud and more than a dozen other people died in the drone attack when he was at his father in law`s house in South Waziristan," said a second intelligence official aware of the investigations.

He said the Taliban were officially denying Mehsud`s death in the missile attack earlier this month because they had so far not been able to agree on his replacement.

Pakistani and US authorities say they are almost certain about Mehsud`s death, and claim the development has triggered bloody infighting among Taliban leaders over succession. The rebels have denied this.


First Published: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 10:16

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