Pakistan believes Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, may have been killed with his wife and bodyguards in a missile attack, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Friday.
An intelligence officer in South Waziristan told Reuters that Mehsud's funeral had already taken place, while Pakistani media cited their own security sources saying Mehsud was dead, Reuters reports.
Baitullah Mehsud’s rival tribesman Misbahullah confirmed this information and said the Taliban chief was killed in a drone attack at Zangara in the tribal area of South Waziristan along the Afghanistan border.
“It is confirmed he was killed at a relative’s house,” Misbahullah said in a telephone interview from South Waziristan. “They are now trying to choose a new leader for the Taliban,” Bloomberg reports.
"There is reason to believe that reports of his death may be true, but it can't be confirmed at this time," said a U.S. official who had been briefed on the evidence.
Mehsud was apparently the intended target of an early Wednesday missile strike on a house in northwestern Pakistan occupied by several of the Taliban commander's relatives and in-laws. News reports from Pakistan said four people were killed, including one of Mehsud's wives.
Yesterday, Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said officials suspected that Mehsud himself had been killed, along with his wife and bodyguards.
"We have some information, but we don't have material evidence to confirm it," Malik told reporters in Islamabad, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Meanwhile, if confirmed, the death of the notorious commander would be a coup for both Islamabad and Washington, AFP reports.