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Pakistan Taliban Chief Likely Targeted By Drone

Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in South Waziristan in October 2009
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud may have been targeted in a drone strike on January 17 after surviving a similar attack days earlier near the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials have said.

The officials said they had received unconfirmed reports that he may have died of wounds after a drone strike on two vehicles carrying militants in North Waziristan.

Pakistan state television reported earlier that Mehsud was killed and had been buried.

A military spokesman said he had no information on reports of Hakimullah Mehsud's death.

Although his death would likely create disarray in Pakistan's Taliban, analysts say it would not deal a major blow to the group, which is fighting to topple the pro-U.S. government.

Pakistan's Al-Qaeda-linked Taliban issued an audiotape on January 16, purportedly from Mehsud denying he was killed in a U.S. drone strike two days earlier.

Mehsud's profile was raised after he appeared in a farewell video with the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan on December 30.

The intelligence officials said the reports indicated that Mehsud was taken to Orakzai tribal region after the drone attack on the two vehicles, and that he may have been killed or wounded.