Pakistani Taliban leader reportedly at site of drone strike

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<i>This post has been updated. See the note below for details.</i>

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A U.S. drone fired missiles Friday at the residence of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, a top militant with a $5-million FBI bounty on his head thought to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

It was not immediately clear whether Mehsud was killed in the strike in the North Waziristan region. The drone reportedly fired two missiles at the compound and a vehicle used by Mehsud, who has been high on the target list for U.S. intelligence forces.

One Pakistani intelligence official, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, said there were credible reports that Mehsud was in the compound at the time of the strike. There was no immediate response or confirmation from the Taliban.


Local media reported that four people were killed -- including two of Mehsud’s bodyguards -- and two wounded in the attack on the compound situated in the Dande Derpa Khel area of North Waziristan, a lawless area near the border with Afghanistan.

There are widespread reports that Mehsud and his close associate, Tariq Mehsud, were killed in attack. But in some cases in the past, top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been wrongly reported slain.

A resident of Miram Shah near Dande Derpa Khel who requested anonymity said Hakimullah Mehsud had lived in the compound for the last year. The resident added that a large number of Taliban fighters had cordoned off the compound Friday and were not letting local residents into the area, suggesting that someone important was killed in the strike.

Six drones were hovering over the area, he added, preventing Taliban fighters from entering the compound to retrieve the bodies and help the wounded.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan condemned the drone strikes on local television networks, terming them an attempt to sabotage proposed peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban. Khan said the government was sending a three-member delegation to initiate talks with the insurgents.

[Updated 12:10 p.m. PDT, Nov. 1: Hakimullah Mehsud is believed to be in his mid-30s and among Pakistan’s most wanted men. In August 2009, he assumed leadership of the Pakistani Taliban after a drone attack killed the previous leader, his mentor.


Friday’s attack came a day after three insurgents were killed in a drone strike on a rebel compound in the same area near Miram Shah.

Journalists and aid organizations are not allowed into the border areas most subject to drone attacks, making independent verification of military and Taliban claims difficult.]


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Twitter: @MarkMagnier

Special correspondent Ali reported from Peshawar and Times staff writer Magnier from New Delhi.