A Taliban leader with a $5 million American reward on his head is thought to be dead from an drone attack in South Waziristan, Pakistan, but a friend says that report is “ridiculous.” Baitullah Mehsud is alive, or he may be dead. See update below. Update 8-25-09 Baitullah Mehsud confirmed dead. Details below. Latest update 10-5-09.
Members of the Mehsud tribe consider Baitullah Mehsud their leader. He is believed to command as many as 20,000 Taliban. So far, reports of his probable death by drone strike have not been disproved. In other words, he has sent no message to prove that he is alive and the West has no concrete evidence that he was hit in the strike but have said they are increasingly confident that they got him, this time.
That confidence may come from the fact that the drone hit the home of Baitullah Mehsud’s father-in-law’s home. One report says one of his aides told the AP by phone that he died along with his wife, or at least his “second” wife. In another, the aide is quoted, as well as a local tribesman saying he attended the funeral. Odd that the AP can ring-up the Taliban on one of the harshest battlefields in the world but allied forces cannot follow the pings to take them out.
Pakistani officials have complained that the US has failed to hit Mehsud with drone attacks despite them having supplied co-ordinates three times. The reason they gave was that Mehsud has been more focused against Pakistan in his militancy rather than fully directing his militants against Nato in Afghanistan.
Mehsud is said to hate publicity and particularly photography. Perhaps it is not unusual that he will make no claims to be alive, if indeed he is alive.
Mehsud is or was a hardliner. Even among his peers, he is considered extraordinarily dedicated to holy war against allied forces. In November 2007, Baitullah Mehsud told the BBC: “Only jihad can bring peace to the world.”
In March, Weasel Zippers reported that Baitullah Mehsud “promised an assault on Washington ‘soon’ – one he said that will ‘amaze’ the world.” This after claiming responsibility for the attack on a Pakistan police academy in Lahore leaving 18 dead and more than 100 wounded.
As within any organization, even one fighting in the wilderness of Afghanistan, position within an organization is power, and it is believed the “friend” calling American reports of the demise of Mehsud “ridiculous” may be preparing to succeed the leader. While Commander Hakimullah Mehsud says the reports are the work of propaganda, he also say Baitullah Mehsud is adopting the tactics of Osama bin Laden and will “stay silent.”
Update 8-8-08 4:15 pm CDT:
The story of what seems to be Baitullah Mehsud’s demise can be attributed to his desire to have a son in addition to his four daughters by his first wife. With a new wife in the family, and the couple at the home of the new wife’s father, perhaps a son would be delivered. Baitullah was diabetic and not feeling well. A doctor was tending to him:
As he lay on a couch on the roof tended by his new wife, somewhere high up in the clear starry sky a distant unmanned plane was hovering, invisible to the naked eye. Its cameras locked in on him, a command was given thousands of miles away in the Nevada desert, and two Hellfire missiles tore into the mudwalled building.
Afterwards a Pakistani intelligence officer based in the nearest town, Makeen, said Mehsud’s torso had been “totally damaged except for his head”.
It just isn’t proper to have daughters when you’re a distinguished Taliban leader. There is no celebratory gunfire for the birth of a daughter. How frustrating. Four daughters! It appears he died without a son, his second wife along with him, and seven body guards that could do little to save him from the eagle eye of the American drone.
Baitullah Mehsud was a big catch, and perhaps the biggest for the drone program. He is believed to have behind the death of Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
When a former leader was also killed by a Predator drone and replaced by Abdullah Mehsud – who was released by Americans at Guantanamo, Baitullah proved the stronger leader and Abdullah lost his leadership.
According to this report, Baitullah Mehsud has been CONFIRMED dead. The puzzling confirmation comes via a joint phone call from Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, saying that their leader Baitullah Mehsud was martyred on August 23, 2009, but the truth seems to be that Baitullah died on August 5th as reported above.