WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. and Pakistani officials said Sunday they are standing by their information that Taliban leaders Baitullah and Hakimullah Mehsud are dead.
Gen. James Jones, the U.S. national security adviser, said on "Fox News Sunday" that despite assertions to the contrary by militants, evidence continued to point to the death of Baitullah Mehsud, who has been described as Pakistan's most feared and effective Taliban leader and was a distant relative of Hakimullah Mehsud.
"I think that if there's dissension in the ranks and if, in fact, he is, as we think, dead, this is a positive indication that in Pakistan, things are turning for the better," he said.
Taliban leaders have also disputed a report in The New York Times that Hakimullah Mehsud, who was believed to be positioning himself as Baitullah's successor, had been slain in a feud with a rival Taliban leader, revealing evidence of power struggle going on in the top ranks of the militant Islamic group.
But the Times said Sunday that Pakistani officials still believe that an argument between Hakimullah Mehsud and rival Taliban leader Waliur Rehman over succession at a tribal meeting in South Waziristan ended in a shootout, killing Mehsud and wounding Rehman.