Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Baitullah Mehsud

Baitullah Mehsud (c. 1974 – August 5, 2009) was a leading militant in Waziristan, Pakistan, and the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He formed the TTP from an alliance of about five militant groups in December 2007. He is thought by U.S. military analysts to have commanded up to 5,000 fighters and to have been behind numerous attacks in Pakistan including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto which he and others have denied.

Disagreement exists over the exact date of the militant's death. Pakistani security officials initially announced that Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and bodyguards were killed on 5 August 2009 in a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency drone attack in the Zangar area of South Waziristan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik delayed giving official confirmation and asked for patience and an announcement by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) or other agencies. Kafayat Ullah, a TTP source, also announced the death of the militant in the strike, as did his deputy Faqir Mohammed. Later Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan commander Hakimullah Mehsud denied previous TTP announcements and said Mehsud was in good health. Major General Athar Abbas, ISPR spokesman, and Robert Gibbs of the White House said his death could not be confirmed, U.S. National Security Adviser James L. Jones also claimed that there was "pretty conclusive" evidence that proved Baitullah Mehsud had been killed and that he was 90% sure of it.On August 25, 2009, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman telephoned the BBC to say that the Baitullah Mehsud had died on August 23, 2009, due to injuries sustained during the August 5 attack. The BBC received a video that shows the body of Mehsud on September 30.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, writing in the Asia Times, described Baitullah Mehsud as a physically small man, with diabetes.

Early life
Baitullah Mehsud was born in the early 1970s in Landi Dhok village in the Bannu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, which lies some distance from the Mehsud tribe's base in the South Waziristan Agency. An ethnic Pashtun, he hailed from the Broomi Khel side of the Shabi Khel sub-clan of the Mehsud tribe, and was one of five brothers. He avoided media attention and refused to be photographed in adherence with his religious beliefs. He never finished formal schooling although he has received some instruction in a madrassa.

As a young madrassa student, Baitullah would often travel into Afghanistan to assist the Taliban in its implementation of Sharia.

He emerged as a major tribal leader soon after the 2004 death of Nek Mohammad.[16] In a ceremony attended by five leading Taliban commanders, including Mullah Dadullah, Baitullah was appointed Mullah Omar's governor of the Mehsud area.

Benazir Bhutto assassination
On 28 December 2007 the Pakistan government claimed that it had strong evidence regarding Baitullah Mehsud as the man behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on 27 December 2007. The Pakistani government released a transcript it asserted was from a conversation between Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Sahib (literally "Mr. Cleric"). According to the transcript Maulvi Sahib claimed credit for the attack, Baitullah Mehsud asked who carried it out, and was told, "There were Saeed, the second was Badarwala Bilal and Ikramullah was also there."

The translation released from Agence France Presse differed slightly from the translation from the Associated Press. According to the transcripts Baitullah Mehsud says he is at, "Anwar Shah's house", in Makeen or Makin. The Agence France Presse transcript identifies Makeen as a town in South Waziristan.

Subsequently, both Agence France Presse and NDTV released an official denial by Mehsud's spokesman in which he said that Mehsud had no involvement in the attack, that the transcript was "a drama", that it would have been "impossible" for militants to penetrate the security cordon around Bhutto, and that her death was a "tragedy" which had left Mehsud "shocked". Mehsud's spokesman was quoted as saying: "I strongly deny it. Tribal people have their own customs. We don't strike women."

In an address to the nation on 2 January 2008, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said that he believed Maulana Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud were prime suspects in the assassination of Bhutto.

On 18 January 2008, The Washington Post reported that the CIA has concluded that Mehsud was behind the Bhutto assassination. "Offering the most definitive public assessment by a U.S. intelligence official, Michael V. Hayden said Bhutto was killed by fighters allied with Mehsud, a tribal leader in northwestern Pakistan, with support from al-Qaeda's terrorist network." U.S. President George W. Bush then placed Mr. Mehsud on "a classified list of militant leaders whom the C.I.A. and American commandos were authorized to capture or kill."

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