Aide says Pakistan Taliban leader Mehsud dead

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan -- Pakistan's Taliban chief Bailtullah Mehsud, who led a violent campaign of suicide attacks and assassinations against the Pakistani government, has been killed in a U.S. missile strike, a Taliban commander and aide to Mehsud said Friday.

"I confirm that Baitullah Mehsud and his wife died in the American missile attack in South Waziristan," Kafayat Ullah told The Associated Press by telephone. He would not give any further details.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad that intelligence showed Mehsud had been killed in Wednesday's missile strike on his father-in-law's house in Pakistan's lawless tribal area, but authorities would travel to the site to verify his death.

"To be 100 percent sure, we are going for ground verification," Qureshi said. "And once the ground verification reconfirms, which I think is almost confirmed, then we'll be 100 percent sure."

If confirmed, Mehsud's demise would be a major boost to Pakistani and U.S. efforts to eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Mehsud has al-Qaida connections and has been suspected in the killing of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan views him as its top internal threat and has been preparing an offensive against him.


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