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How the strike will practically affect the Taliban remains to be seen. But it is certain to fan already smoldering rage against the US military as well as Pakistani forces – both of which are under considerable public fire for civilian casualties.
The drone attack is only the latest trouble for Mr. Mehsud. As his power has grown, so too have his enemies – and not only those patrolling the skies. News has emerged that even the Taliban itself is divided over the leader, with a new group recently formed to violently oppose him.
In recent weeks, a barrage of missile attacks – presumably fired by the US military – has been homing in on Mehsud's stronghold in South Waziristan, seeking the elusive leader in hideouts and Taliban offices, reports Voice of America.
"I confirm that the female that was killed in the strike was the wife of Baitullah Mehsud,' the relative told Reuters by telephone.
In the days leading up to the strike, a cloud of controversy hung over the Mehsud household over whether he was seeking a deal with the government. In the Pakistani newspaper The News, renowned Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai discusses reports that the government may have been negotiating with Mehsud.
Reports have recently appeared in the British and US media about renewed contacts between the government emissaries and Baitullah. The reports claimed that Baitullah had agreed to halt suicide bombings in return for a government promise not to launch a big military operation against him in his native South Waziristan. It was suggested in these reports that Afghan Taliban were mediating between him and the government.
[An] Army officer, who wished not be named, told The News such reports were being spread by pro-militant sources to create confusion in the country and abroad. He felt Baitullah and his supporters might be wishing that the government and the military approach him again for peace talks.
Mehsud may be searching for a lifeline. He has remained in power through a toxic mixture of muscle and strategy, displaying a rampant disregard for civilians and rival tribal clans. That has made him increasingly unpopular, as Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper reported recently.
Three Taliban groups in South Waziristan have formed a new anti-Baitullah Mehsud alliance, with Ikhlas Khan alias Waziristan Baba as its chief, reported a private TV channel on Wednesday....
... said he would avenge the killings of innocent people who fell victim to attacks launched by Baitullah. "Those who destroy hospitals and schools and kill our brothers and sisters are not our well-wishers," he said.