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Pakistani Taliban denies Mehsud dead: reports.

Summary: A fellow commander in the Pakistani Taliban insisted that Baitullah Mehsud, the movement's leader, was alive, Al Arabiya reported on Saturday, rejecting government claims he had been killed in a

A fellow commander in the Pakistani Taliban insisted that Baitullah Mehsud, the movement's leader, was alive, Al Arabiya reported on Saturday, rejecting government claims he had been killed in a U.S. drone strike that targeted his house last Wednesday.

Hakimullah Mehsud, one of the most powerful commanders in the tribal region, completely denied reports of Mehsud's death and described them as "ridiculous," he told Al Arabia reporter in Pakistan.

Some analysts suspected that the Pakistani Taliban's leadership was divided over who should become the next chief and that Hakimullah's denial aimed to buy time until a new leader emerged. Hakimullah, who controls fighters in the Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber tribal regions, is regarded as one of the leading contenders to replace Baitullah Mehsud.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday the government was sure Mehsud was killed in the attack on Wednesday that also killed his second wife, a brother, seven bodyguards and destroyed his car.

"It's 100 percent certain now," a senior member of the Pakistan government told Reuters, explaining that the intelligence services had obtained confirmation of Mehsud's death from family members.

Qureshi anticipated the death of Mehsud would leave a void in the Taliban movement that could lead to divisions.

"With him gone, I think there is going to be an internal struggle and disarray in their ranks, I think it will set in demobilization. It is a great success for the forces that are fighting extremism and terrorism in Pakistan," Qureshi said.

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Publication:Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)
Date:Aug 7, 2009
Words:288
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