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Drone Strike Kills Pakistani Taliban Leader

Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike on November 1.
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani Taliban sources have confirmed the group's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a suspected U.S. drone strike on November 1 in Northern Waziristan.

Mehsud's Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an umbrella of militant groups separate to but allied to the Afghan Taliban.

Earlier in the day, regional sources said drones had fired missiles at a compound in Danda Darpa Khel, a village near the regional capital of Miran Shah, killing at least four people.

Mehsud's driver and one of his bodyguards were also confirmed killed in the strike.

An unnamed senior Taliban commander said Mehsud's funeral will be held on November 2 in Miran Shah.

North Waziristan is the stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and shares a border with Afghanistan.

Mehsud took over the TTP in August 2009 after a drone strike killed the previous leader.

The United States had offered $5 million for Mehsud's capture after he appeared in a farewell video with a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan in 2009.
The late Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud (left) sits beside a man who is believed to be the suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in 2009.
The late Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud (left) sits beside a man who is believed to be the suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in 2009.

U.S. prosecutors have charged him with involvement in that attack.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she had seen reports of the death of Mehsud but declined to comment.

Mehsud's killing is the latest in a series of setbacks for the TTP.

A drone strike killed Mehsud's number two in May, and one of his most trusted lieutenants was captured in Afghanistan last month.

The death follows months of debate over potential peace talks between the Taliban and the new government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who swept to a landslide victory in May elections.

Mehsud, who was believed to be in his mid-30s and was one of Pakistan's most wanted men, had been reported dead several times before.

'Pleasant Smile' But 'Radiated Danger'

Correspondents say Mehsud had the reputation of being a skilled fighter and a ruthless and fiery commander who was thought to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Those who had met him described him as a "lively man" with a "pleasant smile" who radiated danger.

WATCH: File Footage Video Of Mehsud With His Fighters
U.S. Drone Kills Pakistani Taliban Leader Hakimullah Mehsud
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Daud Khan, a senior editor of RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, said Mehsud was feared and respected among Taliban fighters.

"He was charismatic and he was respected among the Taliban for being very close to the former chief, Baitullah Mehsud, and for his daring attacks on NATO convoys and against the government," Khan said.

Mehsud came to prominence in 2007 after several raids on Pakistan's army in which he captured scores of soldiers.

He spoke relatively frequently to the media to spell out the objectives of his group.

He was interviewed by the BBC in October in tribal areas close to the Afghan border. In that interview, he remained alert to the constant threat of an attack from the sky.

The Pakistani defense ministry on October 30 said 317 U.S. drone strikes in the country's tribal areas had killed 67 civilians and 2,160 militants since 2008. Other organizations have given much higher estimates for the number of civilian casualties attributed to drone strikes in the region.

RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari contributed to this report, with reporting by Reuters and AFP