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Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud is alive: spy agency

While presumed killed in a drone strike in January, Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud is in fact alive, according to a senior intelligence official in Islamabad. It may set back the US drone program.

By David MonteroCorrespondent / April 29, 2010

Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud (c.) sits with other millitants in South Waziristan in this October 4, 2009 file video grab. Mehsud is in fact alive, according to a senior intelligence official in Islamabad.

Reuters TV/Reuters/File

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Hakimullah Mehsud, a Taliban leader in Pakistan who was declared dead in January, is in fact alive, a senior intelligence official in Pakistan has said.

The news comes amid renewed criticism of the CIA’s secret and controversial drone program, and could serve as a setback to US efforts to contain the Taliban in Pakistan.

Hakimullah Mehsud succeeded former Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, after the latter was killed in a suspected CIA drone strike. Hakimullah proved to be just as lethal, if not more than, his predecessor: He was said to be one of the masterminds behind a suicide bombing in December that killed seven CIA officers in Khost, Afghanistan.

Following that incident, the CIA sharply ramped up efforts to eliminate Hakimullah, unleashing a barrage of drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt, according to the Associated Press. At first it appeared they’d hit their quarry; in January, Pakistan’s interior minister declared Hakimullah dead.

Hakimullah’s death was hailed by international media as a major victory. But neither the CIA nor Pakistan’s intelligence agency confirmed the death, the Guardian points out. And the Taliban themselves always insisted Hakimullah was alive, adds Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper

Now, Pakistani officials apparently agree.

"He is alive," a senior intelligence official in Pakistan, speaking anonymously, told the Guardian. "He had some wounds but he is basically OK."

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