America May Have Re-Killed a Taliban Leader We Thought We Killed in 2010

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An anonymous American intelligence official tells the Associated Press that a drone attack in Pakistan's Peshawar province has killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in that country. The official appears to be a different source from the guy who said the same thing about the same person three years ago.

Mehsud, as the AP notes, had "a reputation for being particularly ruthless." He is believed to have been the mastermind behind the failed Times Square bomb plot in May of 2010, and his organization, Tehrik-i-Taliban, is the one reportedly responsible for attempting to murder 14-year-old activist Malala Yousufzai. His FBI "Most Wanted" listing focuses on his involvement in the bombing of an American military base in 2009.

In 2010, Mehsud was also reported to have been killed in a drone strike, largely based on reports from members of the Taliban and a government official. Within a matter of months, those reports were rescinded, after Mehsud was spotted in Waziristan.

According to the AP, the sourcing on this year's report of Mehsud's death is a little more robust.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said the U.S. received positive confirmation Friday morning that he had been killed. Two Pakistani intelligence officials in North Waziristan also confirmed his death as did two Taliban commanders who said they had seen the remnants of the militant commander's mangled body. …

The Taliban commanders said at least four missiles struck just after a vehicle in which Mehsud was driving entered the compound.

In the wake of the president's high-profile May speech in which he declared a new era in the government's drone use, tensions between the United States and the citizens of Pakistan have only increased. While the Pakistani government has given the U.S. authority to carry out attacks in private, in public it condemns the actions, as it did after Friday's strike. Earlier this week, members of Congress heard testimony from a Pakistani family that had been injured in a 2012 strike. "I no longer love blue skies," the family's son said. "In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey."

Photo: Mehsud, at left. (AP)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.