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Terrorism & Security

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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Islamabad has often announced the deaths of senior militants only to have the militants surface and prove they were alive, reports the Long War Journal, a blog that follows Pakistan and lists several Al Qaeda and Taliban figures who were reported dead but later appeared alive "in the media or on propaganda tapes."

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The Pakistani government's track record in accurately reporting on the deaths of senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders is poor.... The Taliban, on the other hand, have been honest about the deaths of their senior leaders. Each time they have refuted a claim of a leader being killed, they have been able to prove the commander is alive.

Responding to Hakimullah's phone call, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik challenged the Taliban to prove that their chief was still alive, reports Dawn, an English-language Pakistani daily.

'When Hakimullah can talk to Baitullah, he can also bring his video tape [of Baitullah] to contradict my claims that the Taliban chieftain is dead,' Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters outside parliament.

The government hopes to get DNA evidence to prove its claim, Mr. Malik told the BBC on Monday. But retrieving such evidence from the mountainous, hostile tribal areas where Mehsud was based may prove tricky, points out Changing Up Pakistan, a Pakistani blog.

Given the rough terrain in South Waziristan and that it's now swarming with angry Taliban/[kinsmen], any kind of access there seems unlikely. Therefore, a conclusive DNA test may be nearly impossible to achieve unless Mehsud's corpse magically appears on the ministry's doorstep.

The United States, which launched the airstrike on Mehsud, is 90 percent sure the militant chief is dead, National Security Advisor James Jones said Sunday, Politico reported. The drone attacks have become increasingly common in South Waziristan. Another strike there Tuesday killed at least 10 militants, reports Voice of America, citing Pakistani officials.

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