Fresh drone strike targets Hakeemullah again

PESHAWAR: A latest drone strike on a suspected militant hideout in South Waziristan has injured the Chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Hakeemullah Mehsud on Friday, according to a DawnNews report.

However, the government is yet to confirm the reports of his death. ‘We cannot confirm the death of Hakeemullah yet,’ stated the Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira.

“So far we do not have confirmation of him either getting killed or getting injured. It will take a little more time to confirm this or otherwise,” chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.

“Intelligence agencies are at their work, they are trying to probe and find out from their sources.” Abbas said issues of access in the Taliban-controlled area were one hurdle in obtaining information.

“We only have the information that there was a strike and there was the presence of militants in the compound, but whether the leadership was there or not is yet to be confirmed,” he added.

The fresh airstrike comes a day after Mehsud fled a similar strike in the restive tribal belt.

As reports emerged Thursday of Mehsud’s possible demise in the strike, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group he commands swiftly put out a statement saying he was alive, and on Friday repeated their claims.

“Hakimullah is alive and safe. I met with him last night, there was not even a scratch on him,” TTP spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP by telephone.

“He left the place (of the strike) 40 or 60 minutes beforehand,” he said, referring to the remote Shaktoi area pounded by the missiles.

Tariq said a meeting of Taliban elders would be convened soon to decide whether to release a new video of Mehsud proving their claims.

Hakimullah Mehsud assumed leadership of the group blamed for the deaths of thousands of people in attacks in Pakistan after his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a US drone strike in August last year.

The TTP denied Baitullah Mehsud’s death for weeks, apparently amid fierce infighting over his successor. Hakimullah Mehsud himself had to counter rumours of his own demise at the hands of a rival militant in October. –DawnNews/ AFP

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