By BILL ROGGIO
March 15, 2010 3:01 PM
|Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan commander Hakeemullah Mehsud, in 2008.|
A former officer in the Pakistani military intelligence service with close ties to terrorist groups has denied that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed in a US airstrike.
Khalid Khawaja, a self-described humans rights activist with deep ties to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a host of terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil, claimed today that two of his associates met with Hakeemullah last week.
“Two of my acquaintances were with Hakeemullah Mehsud on March 9 while Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas had claimed he was dead early last month,” Khawaja told the Press Trust of India.
“I challenge the government to deny my claim and then I will disclose the names of those who were with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief on March 9,” Khawaja claimed.
Khawaja is a former Squadron Commander in the Pakistani Air Force who fought alongside al Qaeda and reportedly Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s. After retiring from the Pakistani Army as a major, he served in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Pakistan’s notorious military intelligence service that helped to found the Taliban and other jihadist terror groups. Khawaja has also been linked to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Khawaja serves as the Taliban’s “consigliere,” a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. At the end of February, Khawaja succeeded in blocking the transfer of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second in command, and four other members of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, to foreign custody.
The Pakistani government has insisted that Hakeemullah was killed on three separate occasions since Jan. 14, the day the US carried out an airstrike in North Waziristan. Hakeemullah publicly denied the first report but has not been heard from since Jan. 16. Several top Taliban commanders, including the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban and Hakeemullah’s supposed successor, have denied that their leader was killed in the strike [see LWJ report, “Taliban release videotape of Hakeemullah Mehsud,” for more details on the reports and denials of Hakeemullah’s death].
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