Pakistani officials said they had received information on Saturday that a ranking militant commander had been killed in a power struggle over who would take control of the Pakistani Taliban.
A Pakistani government official and an intelligence official said Hakimullah Mehsud, a young and aggressive aide to the former Taliban leader, had been shot dead in a fight with Waliur Rehman, another commander who was seeking to become the leader, during a meeting in a remote mountain region near the Afghan border.
Reports of Hakimullah Mehsud’s death could not be independently verified Saturday. If they are true, it would be the second major loss for the Pakistani Taliban in just a week, after reports that its supreme leader, Baitullah Mehsud, had been killed in an American airstrike on Wednesday. The killing would also solidify the belief among American and Pakistani intelligence officials that a power struggle has been brewing within the Pakistani Taliban, which is made up of many different tribes and factions that had been brought together under Baitullah Mehsud’s leadership. [continued…]