|Taliban Releases Image of 'Martyred' Leader|
|By LEE FERRAN (@leeferran)||Nov 4, 2013, 2:48 PM|
The Pakistani Taliban has released an image that purportedly shows the face of its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, shortly after he was reportedly killed in a drone strike late last week -- the latest piece of evidence that the terrorist leader is dead.
The image, posted on the Facebook page for Pakistani Taliban's media arm and shared in jihadi circles online, is a close-up of the bloodied face of a man who resembles images of Mehsud as featured on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist poster. The Facebook post was titled "the esteemed martyred Amir Hakimullah Mehsud."
Obtaining confirmation of militants' deaths is notoriously difficult, but in this case Pakistani intelligence sources, senior Taliban members and a statement posted online by the Afghanistan Taliban all corroborate a reported account in which Mehsud was killed when his vehicle was struck with a missile fired from an American drone Friday. At least four others were killed in the strike, according to local news reports. A U.S. official told ABC News he has not seen anything to cause him to doubt the image is Mehsud.
The U.S. government alleged Mehsud was linked to the 2009 suicide bombing of a CIA outpost in Khost, Afghanistan that claimed the lives of seven CIA officers. After the bombing, a video surfaced online showing Mehsud with the would-be bomber, both taking credit for "arranging" the deadly attack. Mehsud was also implicated in the failed attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York City's iconic Times Square in May 2010.
Mehsud's death was hailed by former CIA officers whose colleagues had been killed in Khost.
"I don't revel in revenge killings, but that guy was a dirt bag," a former officer told ABC News Friday.
However, that was not the reaction of many in Pakistan, where there has been an outpouring of grief by Mehsud's supporters and a strongly-worded condemnation from the Pakistani government over the drone strike. The day after the strike, the Pakistani government called U.S. Ambassador Richard Olsen to its foreign office to register its protest.
"The latest drone strike will have a negative impact on the Government's initiative to undertake a dialogue with the TTP [Pakistani Taliban]," a statement released by the Pakistani government over the weekend said. "The Government, however, is determined to continue with these efforts to engage with the TTP, to bring an end to the ongoing violence and make them a part of mainstream politics within the parameters of our constitution."
Last month Mehsud told BBC News in a rare interview he would be open to "serious talks" about peace with the Pakistani government. In the same interview, however, he said he would still target "America and its friends," the BBC reported.
A Taliban spokesperson said Sunday the organization is in mourning and has not yet named a permanent replacement leader.