Who’s who in the Pakistan Taliban
New reports surfaced Sunday that Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud died after a US drone attack Jan. 14. A look at other senior figures in the group.
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Renewed speculation that the Taliban leader was dead was sparked by a report on Pakistani state television Sunday night saying he had been buried.
Here’s a list of possible contenders to succeed Hakimullah, as well as other key figures in the Pakistani Taliban.
As deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Waliur Rehman, a former spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud, is the opposite of the fiery Hakimullah. He's quiet, serious, and brooding. The religious scholar – whose studies qualify him for the honorific of “mullah” – lacks Hakimullah’s charisma and reputation for boldness but retains a sizable following.
Following Baitullah’s death in August 2009, Pakistani intelligence officials reported that Mr. Rehman and Hakimullah had engaged in a gun battle that left one or both of them dead. That was proved untrue when both men posed for cameras at a press conference last October, though reports of rivalry between the two men persisted. The Pakistani government currently has a $600,000 bounty on Rehman's head.
According to Rifaat Hussain, a security analyst at the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, Rehman and others “may now be having second thoughts about mounting a leadership bid, perhaps fearing that he will meet the same fate as the previous two occupants of the post.”
The so-called father of suicide bombers and a top lieutenant of Hakimullah's, Qari Hussain was also reported to have been killed in a drone strike in Makeen, South Waziristan, last summer, but later reemerged in the October press conference alongside Rehman and Hakimullah.
A cousin of former leader Baitullah, Mr. Hussain’s reputation was built on running training camps for suicide bombers and directing a series of suicide bomb attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) aimed at killing tribal elders and supplanting their rule.