Hakimullah's close aide killed in Jan 14 drone attack

Peshawar: Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud's close aide Qari Hussain, the trainer of suicide bombers, was killed in the same US drone attack that fatally injured him, sources said on Tuesday.

The sources in Aurakzai tribal region, who did not want to be identified for security reasons, told PTI that Qari Hussain died in the drone attack in Shaktoi area of North Waziristan on January 14.

Wali-ur-Rehman, the chief military strategist of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and another close aide of Hakimullah Mehsud, too has been missing since that drone attack, the sources said.

Tribal elders and state-run PTV had said on Sunday that Mehsud had died of injuries sustained in the drone attack in the home of his father-in-law in Aurazkzai Agency.

The government and the military did not confirm the death while the Taliban dismissed reports of Mehsud's demise as propaganda floated by security agencies.

The central 'shura' or council of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has been considering the names of several militant commanders as a replacement for Mehsud, sources said.

Among the names being considered by the shura are Malik Noor Jamal alias Maulana Toofan, Sayed Khan Mamozai, Ziaur Rehman alias Mulla Zaver, Gul Zaman and Daulat Khan.

The Taliban are expected to make a formal announcement about Mehsud's death only after they have decided on his successor.

The militants had adopted a similar tactic after Mehsud?s predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan in August last year.

Sources said the Taliban were also delaying the announcement of Hakimullah Mehsud's death under a tactical strategy as they wanted to avert a power struggle within their ranks and to have a smooth transfer of power to his successor without any bloodshed.

Meanwhile, reports from Aurakzai Agency said local commander Malik Noor Jamal had begun officiating as the acting head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Jamal will reportedly head the organization until the Taliban leadership decides its next course of action.

The reports also said Hakimullah Mehsud died after the Taliban were unable to bring in a doctor to Aurakzai Agency from the nearby Hangu district.

The closure of almost all roads leading to Aurakzai Agency by security forces too prevented the militants from bringing a doctor.