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Pakistan Taliban Chief Said Targeted By U.S. Drone


Hakimullah Mehsud (left), pictured in October

Hakimullah Mehsud (left), pictured in October

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A U.S. drone fired two missiles today at a compound in northwest Pakistan where Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud was believed to have been, but it was not clear if he was killed, Pakistani officials said.

Twelve militants were killed in the drone strike on a compound on the border between the North and South Waziristan tribal regions, near the Afghan frontier, the officials said.

"We had information that he was around there. We're checking on whether he was killed," a Pakistani security official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

"He was the target. He has probably been killed," said another security official.

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman told Dawn TV that Mehsud was safe and had left minutes before the strike.

Mehsud took over as leader of the Pakistani Taliban five months ago, after his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a similar U.S. drone strike.

The United States has intensified attacks by its pilotless drone aircraft in Waziristan since a suicide bomber crossed over Pakistan's border and killed seven CIA employees in an attack in eastern Afghanistan on December 30.

A video was released at the weekend showing Hakimullah Mehsud sitting beside the CIA bomber, a Jordanian double agent, creating the impression that Mehsud's group played a major role in the second biggest attack on the CIA in its history.

The double agent, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, blew himself inside Forward Operating Base Chapman, a well-fortified U.S. compound in Khost Province in southeast Afghanistan, killing seven CIA employees and a Jordanian officer.

In the video, which could not be immediately verified, al-Balawi sat crosslegged in a green camouflage jacket and called for revenge attacks for the killing of Baitullah Mehsud.

Hakimullah Mehsud's whereabouts have not been known since the Pakistani Army launched an offensive in his South Waziristan bastion in mid-October.

The army has captured most of his main bases.
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