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Afghan Taliban Says Unharmed By Mehsud Death

Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud talks to journalists in South Waziristan in May 2008.
KABUL (Reuters) -- The reported death of the chief of Pakistan's Taliban movement will not hurt the Taliban cause in neighboring Afghanistan, an Afghan Taliban spokesman has said.

Pakistani officials say they believe Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a missile strike two days ago, in what would be a major coup in Pakistan's fight against the militants.

In Afghanistan, Western countries have more than 100,000 troops fighting Taliban Islamist insurgents who ruled that country until being driven out in 2001. They believe the Afghan Taliban shelters and trains across the border in Pakistan.

The Taliban movement has its roots in Pashtun tribes that straddle both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier. But Mehsud's Pakistani organization is seen as mainly preoccupied with affairs on its side of the border, known as the Durand Line after the British official who drew it during the colonial era.

"The Taliban's jihad against foreign forces in Afghanistan will not be affected if a Pakistani Taliban leader is killed on the other side of the Durand Line," Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We feel sympathy for our brothers who fight for the same cause, but resistance against the Afghan government and its foreign allies will continue."