August 10, 2009 10:30
U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser says the United States believes Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud is dead.
Retired General Jim Jones said Sunday on Fox News Sunday that all the evidence Washington has suggests Mehsud died last week. Reports from Pakistan said Mehsud was killed by a U.S. missile strike on his father-in-law's compound. Jones said there appears to be dissension in Mehsud's organization, but he could not confirm Saturday's reports of a shooting involving two rival Taliban commanders fighting over who would succeed the leader.
Pakistani officials said reports suggest a fight erupted during a meeting (shura) between Wali-ur-Rehman and Hakimullah Mehsud, and that one of them died. Another Taliban commander, Noor Sayed, denied there had been any such confrontation. Reuters reported Sunday that Rehman called one of its reporters to deny that any meeting took place. Mehsud commanded Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a network of at least 13 groups, and claimed responsibility for suicide bombings across Pakistan.
The Pakistani government accused Mehsud of being behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, a charge he denied. The United States put a $5 million bounty on Mehsud, who it says had close ties to al-Qaida operatives.
Meanwhile, police in southwestern Pakistan say they found the bullet-ridden bodies of four of their fellow officers early Sunday.
Separatist rebels in the country's Baluchistan province had acknowledged kidnapping the police. During the past few weeks, the rebels have killed 12 police officers. Officials say the separatists are holding 10 other hostages with demands that the government releases prisoners.
For years, armed militants and other nationalist groups in Baluchistan have been campaigning for greater control of the province's gas and other resources.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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