Baitullah Mehsud Dead?
Speculation is mounting that Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani wing of the Taliban, has died from kidney failure
By Isambard Wilkinson in Islamabad
Telegraph, UK: 01 Oct 2008
Mehsud was accused by Pakistan and US intelligence of being responsible for the assassination of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Rumours of his death are circulating in Pakistan. The former fitness instructor turned terrorist leader has diabetes and has been reported to be unwell for months.
Mehsud, in his mid-thirties, rose suddenly from obscurity possibly with the support of a faction of Pakistan's shadowy ISI military intelligence that has secretly backed the Taliban.
However, his doctor said he had an unspecified kidney problem, but that he was alive.
Mehsud has denied involvement in the attack on Bhutto as she left an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, which her widower, Mr Zardari, has blamed on Pakistan's establishment.
Officials have accused Mehsud, the head of the country's umbrella Taliban organisation, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), of being behind a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan since the middle of last year.
Mixed reports surrounding the Taliban leader's death came as American missiles, fired from an unmanned drone aircraft, killed at least six people in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border.
The missiles struck the home of a local Taliban commander before midnight on Tuesday near Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan.
"We have reports of five dead including foreign militants," said an intelligence official.
The strike took place shortly after tribesmen shot at three drones circling the village of Khusali Toorikhel in North Waziristan, a known haunt of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.
Tension between Pakistan and the United States has escalated since Washington stepped up attacks on Pakistani territory after a new civilian government came to power in March.
American forces have carried out seven missile strikes fired from pilotless drones and a commando raid on the Pakistani side of the border in the past month.
Last Thursday, Pakistani and US troops exchanged fire along the border after two US military helicopters came under fire.
Though both sides played down the incident later, Pakistan contended that the US helicopters had entered Pakistani territory while Washington argued they had not left Afghanistan.
America has expressed frustration at the continued support for the Taliban by Pakistan's military intelligence agency.
On Tuesday the Afghan head of intelligence told Al Jazeera news broadcaster that Pakistan did not need a military operation to tackle the Taliban but only to "soft knock their houses" in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar.
President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed zero tolerance against violations of Pakistan's sovereignty.
Washington claimed to respect Pakistani sovereignty on Monday in a joint statement with Pakistan following talks between the US deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, and Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
"The United States affirmed its support for Pakistan's sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity," according to the joint statement issued by the State Department.
However, it is believed that a secret deal exists permitting missile strikes against foreign fighters.
The former foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, revealed at the weekend that a deal allowed for "limited" American action on Pakistani soil.
Top Pakistan militant 'not dead' - BBC
Profile of Baitullah Mehsud - BBC
Baitullah Mehsud: South Waziristan's Unofficial Amir - Jamestown Foundation
Pakistani Taliban leader Mehsud seriously ill: officials, militants - AFP
Mehsud visits parts of S.Waziristan
The News, Updated at: 2050 PST, Thursday, October 02, 2008
WANA: Supreme commander of the banned outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud visited different area of South Waziristan on Thursday.
According to Taliban sources, Meshsud visited Makeen, Ladha, Badar, Salay Rogha and other areas.
The tribesmen upon seeing the Taliban commander, fired their guns in the air.
President Tehreek-i-Insaf South Waziristan, Toofan Burki garlanded Baitullah Mehsud and put traditional Pagri (turban) upon his head.
Speaking on the occasion, the speakers said the electronic media is airing news regarding the death of Baitullah Mehsud, causing concern among the tribesmen.
Therefore, the tribal elders decided that Mehsud should undertake visit of the tribal areas so that people could see him.