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Top Pakistani Taliban Leader Reportedly Killed By U.S. Drone Strike


Wali-ur Rehman Mehsud (center) speaks to reporters in July 2011.
Wali-ur Rehman Mehsud (center) speaks to reporters in July 2011.
RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, quoting local and Taliban sources, reports that Wali-ur Rehman Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban's second in command, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan.

Rehman, who was the deputy to Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, was said to have died as a result of an overnight strike in the village of Chashmapul.

The U.S. government has offered rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the location of the two leaders of the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Rehman was the alleged mastermind of the September 2008 attack on the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, in which more than 50 people were killed.

Several other Taliban figures were reportedly killed in the drone strike, including high-ranking commander Naseeruddin.

The Pakistani government has not yet officially confirmed Rehman’s death, but it condemned the strike as a "breach of sovereignty." The United States has also not confirmed the death.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters that the group did not have "confirmed reports" that Rehman had been killed. He declined further comment.

A Geo News TV report in Karachi quoted unnamed "Taliban sources" as saying Rehman "remained unhurt in the drone strikes."

Rehman had been reportedly poised to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud as leader of the TTP.

The Pakistani Taliban are a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban. The TTP has claimed many attacks against Pakistani military as well as civilian targets, including election rallies, schools, and antipolio campaigns.

North Waziristan, where the attack reportedly took place, is a restive, tribal region bordering Afghanistan. It has long been a stronghold for militants.

U.S. drone strikes targeting militants in the area have drawn widespread criticism in Pakistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent announcement about the scaling back of drone attacks was welcomed by the people of North Waziristan, where such attacks sometimes leave civilian casualties.

Pakistani Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif said this month that drone attacks were a "challenge" to Pakistan’s sovereignty.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters

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