But U.S. and Pakistani officials warned Mehsud's death would not mortally wound the Pakistani Taliban organization. After Baitullah Mehsud was killed, Pakistani intelligence officials say the group went through a violent power struggle, but Hakimullah Mehsud unleashed a ferocious wave of attacks to mark his assumption of the leadership.
Most of those attacks were against Pakistani civilians, about 600 of whom died since September. U.S. officials expect the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban to try to launch a similar wave of attacks.
According to a Pakistani official, Mehsud was injured in a strike that destroyed a former school along the border of North and South Waziristan during a meeting of senior Taliban officials. Mehsud was then transported into the neighboring Orakzai tribal territory to his father-in-law's village, Mamozai, where he was treated by a doctor from a private hospital in Hangu, according to the official. The official believes Mehsud was then buried in Mamozai.
No official will publicly confirm Mehsuds death, in part because of the stigma associated with the covert drone program, and also because some have incorrectly labeled commanders as dead in the past only to see them later give public interviews.
This weekend the speculation about Mehsud's fate peaked when Pakistan's state-owned broadcaster PTV announced his death without citing any sources. The Taliban have issued repeated denials that Mehsud had died of his wounds, including one on Saturday.
He and his senior leadership survived last year's invasion by 30,000 Pakistani soldiers into their former South Waziristan stronghold. Pakistani military officers acknowledged that Mehsud had fled into North Waziristan.
While the army pushed the Pakistani Taliban out of South Waziristan, U.S. officials say they have rebuffed American requests to expand the operation to target the Afghan Taliban, who live in Pakistan but largely target U.S. troops and Afghan institutions in Afghanistan.
Mehsud, like his predecessor, expanded the links between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, as well as with al Qaeda and jihadi militant groups that usually attack India. But Mehsud's predecessor was not as successful at finding a way to directly attack the United States in Afghanistan.