Hakeemullah annnounced new leader – doubts linger
Dawn, Sunday, 23 Aug, 2009
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban announced a successor to slain commander Baitullah Mehsud, but intelligence officials said on Sunday it was probably a smokescreen meant to hold together a movement left leaderless for almost three weeks.
Taliban officials rang journalists in northwest Pakistan on Saturday to say Hakeemullah Mehsud, a young militant who commands fighters in the Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram tribal regions, had been chosen as the new chief by a leadership council, or shura.
Western governments with troops in Afghanistan are watching to see if any new Pakistani Taliban leader would shift focus from fighting the Pakistani government and put the movement's weight behind the Afghan insurgency led by Mullah Mohammad Omar.
A BBC report quoted Faqir Mohammad, head of the Taliban in the Bajaur tribal region, as saying Hakeemullah was selected.
Tribal elders told Reuters that Hakeemullah was named after Faqir Mohammad was dissuaded from taking the leadership, although earlier he had said he was taking temporary command.
'There's confusion. Two days ago, Fariq Mohammad claimed he's acting chief and now he says Hakeemullah is,' one senior intelligence officer in northwest Pakistan said. 'It's a trick.'
Intelligence officials insisted Hakeemullah was killed or gravely wounded in a shootout with a rival days after Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a US missile strike on Aug. 5.
'The announcement is real, but the man isn't,' the officer said. 'The real Hakeemullah is dead.'
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Taliban leader challenges appointment of Hakeemullah Mehsud as group's leader - Long War Journal
Taliban in disarray after death of Mehsud - The National