Local reaction to news of the death of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in US drone strike
Residents in the Pakistani capital Islamabad reacted on Saturday after a US drone strike killed the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, in the North Waziristan tribal area on Friday, according to intelligence officials and militant commanders.
Mehsud was killed on Friday in a village outside Miran Shah when multiple missiles slammed into a compound just after a vehicle carrying the militant commander arrived.
Four other suspected militants were killed including Mehsud’s cousin, uncle and one of his guards.
Mehsud was on the US most-wanted militants’ lists with a 5 (m) million US dollar bounty.
He’s believed to have been behind a deadly suicide attack at a CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) base in Afghanistan, a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square and brazen assaults in Pakistan that killed thousands of civilians and members of security forces.
But on the streets of Islamabad, even those who believed he was guilty expressed their disapproval for the unpopular drone strikes.
“Hakimullah Mehsud was involved in illegal activities, that’s why he was killed. But there are people who are not involved in illegal activities, and are innocent, they are also killed in drone strikes,” said local resident Syed Abdullah Shah.
His death will likely complicate efforts by the Pakistani government to negotiate a peace deal with the militants.
After the group’s number two was killed in a drone strike in May, the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) as it is formally called, fiercely rejected any idea of peace talks and accused the government of cooperating with the US in the drone strikes.
In recent weeks the TTP appeared to soften its position but had still made multiple demands for preconditions to any negotiating, including the end of drone strikes in the tribal areas.
“How can we carry on with the dialogue? The dialogue can take place only when there is peace from both sides, and there are no drone strikes,” said local resident Zulfiqar Kiyani.
Meanwhile, intelligence officials reported that the Taliban’s leadership committee gathered at an undisclosed location in the North Waziristan tribal area on Saturday to choose a new leader.
Drones were still flying over North Waziristan on Saturday.
Witnesses in the towns of Mir Ali and Miran Shah reported that Mehsud’s supporters were firing at them in anger.
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