Pakistani intelligence sources told The New York Times Saturday that Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a power struggle with another Taliban commander vying for leadership after the slaying of former militant chieftain Baitullah Mehsud this week in a U.S. drone attack.
The newspaper quoted intelligence officials as saying Hakimullah Mehsud was killed Saturday in a fight with Waliur Rehman during a meeting in a remote mountain region near the Afghan border. The Times said the report could not be independently verified.
If true, it would come only a day after Hakimullah Mehsud told the BBC that reports of Baitullah Mehsud's slaying were lies propagated by the Pakistani government.
U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are reportedly saying the killing of Baitullah Mehsud has created a power vacuum within the Taliban, which is made up of many tribal factions brought together by Mehsud's leadership, and could create an opportunity for al-Qaida to assert more control over their militant allies.
An unnamed senior Pakistani security official confirmed to the English-language newspaper Dawn that Baitullah Mehsud was indeed killed Wednesday in a drone strike, telling the newspaper, "This is 100 percent. We have no doubt about his death. He is dead and buried."
Citing unnamed sources, Dawn said the United States shared a video feed with Pakistani counterparts of the Predator missile strike that left no room for doubt that Mehsud, described as the most feared man in Pakistan, had been killed.