Pakistan, Taliban battle over militant chief's death
Meanwhile, another US airstrike on South Waziristan – like the one that targeted Baitullah Mehsud – killed 10 suspected militants Tuesday.
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Almost a week after Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, was allegedly killed in a United States drone attack on his father-in-law's house last week, conflicting reports about his condition continue to circulate. On Tuesday, the Pakistani government challenged the Taliban to prove their chief was alive. A Taliban commander hit back, daring Islamabad to prove he was dead. The uncertainty is raising questions about the Pakistani government's ability to handle the militant threat in the country's tribal belt.
Spokesman Maulvi Umar said Mehsud is ill, but safe at an undisclosed location. Once Mehsud is better, he will speak to reporters, Umar said….
Mr. Umar accused the government of spreading propaganda. "The government is playing a game and trying to trick Baitullah into coming out of hiding by using this propaganda so they can kill him," he said.
On Sunday, another Mehsud aide admitted that the Taliban chief was "gravely ill" but said his condition was not linked to the missile strike, reported the BBC. The BBC also said, though, that by publicizing his poor condition, the Taliban may be "preparing the ground for an announcement that Pakistan's most wanted man is in fact dead."
Mehsud's deputy and possible successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, also challenged the government to prove that Mehsud had been killed, reports Agence France-Presse. By telephoning AFP, the commander debunked government reports that he too had been killed during a shootout at a council meeting to appoint Mehsud's successor.