The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Friday, according to several reports citing U.S. and militant sources.
Reuters reports that Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed by a drone-fired missile that targeted a vehicle in which he was riding in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. But Mehsud, who has led the Pakistani Taliban since 2009, has been reported killed several times before.
Four security officials confirmed his death this time, Reuters reports, along with his bodyguard and driver. The report cites an intelligence source saying that as many as 25 people were also killed. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning a drone strike, which it says took place in North Waziristan on Friday evening, but did not name anyone who was killed.
Mehsud took over the organization after his mentor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike in August 2009; he had also been reported killed several times before his actual death. The Pakistani Taliban operates in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border. The movement is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, but the two groups share a similar ideology. The Pakistani Army has fought against the TTP for years, and Mehsud was considered an important target.
The drone strike comes just days after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with U.S. officials in Washington and urged President Barack Obama to end drone strikes in his country. Sharif recently began talks with the Pakistani Taliban to try and stop the violence that has plagued the FATA during the conflict between the group and the Pakistani government.