Hakimullah Mehsud is seen in this still image taken from
video in October 2009. REUTERS/Reuters TV/Files
The chief of the Pakistani Taliban has been killed by a
US drone strike, security sources and a senior Taliban
Hakimullah Mehsud was one of Pakistan's most wanted men with
a $5 million US bounty on his head. He led an insurgency from
a secret hideout in North Waziristan, the Taliban's
mountainous stronghold on the Afghan border.
"We confirm with great sorrow that our esteemed leader was
martyred in a drone attack," a senior Taliban commander told
The killing is the latest in a series of setbacks for the
Pakistani Taliban, a fragmented group alligned with their
Afghan namesakes who have staged attacks against armed forces
and civilians in their fight to topple Pakistan's government.
The death will likely scupper the immediate prospect of peace
talks between the Taliban and the new government of Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif, who won a landslide election victory
in May by promising to bring peace to Pakistan.
In Washington, the US State Department had no comment on
His funeral will be held on Saturday in Miranshah, the
Taliban commander said - an event likely to stir tensions
further in the already volatile region.
The nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people has been
plagued by militant violence, including the homegrown Taliban
insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
The Taliban have already been weakened by a series of recent
counter-attacks. In May, a US drone strike killed Mehsud's
second-in-command, and one of his most trusted lieutenants
was captured in Afghanistan last month.
The government never clarified which factions of the Taliban
they were willing to talk to or whether they would comply
with the Taliban's demands to release their prisoners and
withdraw the army from Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's
The Pakistani Taliban acts as an umbrella for various
jihadist groups operating in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt,
who are separate to but allied to the Afghan Taliban.
On Friday, several intelligence, army and Taliban sources
across Pakistan confirmed Mehsud, believed to be in his
mid-30s, had been killed in the drone strike in North
Four security officials confirmed his death to Reuters. His
bodyguard and driver were also killed, they said.
The drones fired four missiles at a compound in Danda Darpa
Khel, a village about 5 km (3 miles) from the regional
capital of Miranshah, sources said. Mehsud had been attending
a gathering of 25 Taliban leaders gathering to discuss the
government's offer of talks, they said.
The information could not be independently verified because
journalists have no access to the affected areas.
The government, which officially condemns US drone strikes,
issued its usual statement denouncing the attack but did not
comment on reports of Mehsud's death.
Mehsud was brought into the insurgency by his cousin Qari
Hussain, who was the Taliban's top trainer for suicide
bombers until he was killed in a drone strike.
He lacked formal education or religious training, but Mehsud
was a popular figure known for his jokes and interest in
modern technology, said Reuters journalists who had met him.
He was the driver for the former head of the Pakistani
Taliban, and then rose through the ranks to become the
Mehsud was known for his emotional outbursts during
conversations. He also often referred respectfully to Mullah
Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban,
as "emir" or "leader".
Mehsud took over the Pakistani Taliban in August 2009 after a
drone strike killed the previous leader, his mentor.
Mehsud had two wives but moved frequently because of his fear
of US drone strikes.
In recent months, analysts say rivalries with other Taliban
commanders over revenues from extortion and kidnapping had
sharpened, rising tensions within the fragmented movement.
The United States had offered $5 million for Mehsud's capture
after he appeared in a farewell video with the Jordanian
suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a base in
Afghanistan in 2009.
US prosecutors have charged him with involvement in the
attack. The Taliban are also accused of plotting to bomb
Times Square in New York in 2010.
Although Mehsud's death will bring calls for revenge, it may
make negotiations with the militants easier in the long-run,
said Saifullah Mahsud, director of the Pakistani think-tank
FATA Research Center.
"Hakimullah Mehsud was a very controversial figure and he had
very tough demands," he said.
But the strike did not signal the end of the Pakistani
Taliban, he said.
"It's a very decentralised organisation. They've lost leaders
to drone strikes before."