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Pakistani Taliban head Mehsud reportedly killed by drone

Pakistani security and Taliban sources say the head of the Pakistani Taliban was been killed by a US drone strike in the country's northwest. Hakimullah Mehsud took over in 2009 after a drone killed a previous leader.

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Pakistani Taliban leader reported dead

Intelligence sources in Pakistan told foreign news agencies on Friday that a suspected US drone strike had killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

It is an umbrella of militant groups separate to but allied with the Afghan Taliban across a porous border. Pakistan has repeatedly protested to the US over such strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty.

Two news agencies, Reuters and Germany's DPA, quoted Taliban sources in Pakistan as saying Mehsud had been killed in the North Waziristan tribal district.

"We confirm with great sorrow that our esteemed leader was martyred in a drone attack," a senior Taliban commander told Reuters.

There was, however, no official confirmation from the Pakistan government, nor a claim of responsibility.

Mehsud, thought to be aged in his mid-30s, has been reported dead several times before.

His predecessor and founder of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike in 2009.

In May, a previous drone strike killed Mehsud's number two, and one of his lieutenants was captured in Afghanistan last month.

Village compound hit

Sources told Reuters that Mehsud's bodyguard and driver were among 25 people killed when drones fired four missiles at a compound in Danda Darpa Khel.

The village lies about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the main regional city of Miran Shah.

Mehsud's capture was sought by the US with a $5 million (3.6 million) bounty for the killing of seven CIA employees. He had appeared in a farewell video for a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed the seven at a base in Afghanistan in 2009.

Opposition to drone strikes

The drone strikes come as Pakistan said it was starting talks with the Pakistani Taliban, which has had a series of setbacks.

Last Wednesday, the Pakistan defense ministry said 317 drone strikes had taken place since 2008 in Pakistan's tribal areas, killing 67 civilians and 2,106 militants.

The attacks are deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Visiting Washington recently, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged President Barack Obama to stop them.

ipj/dr (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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