Baithulla Mehsud fought for South Waziristan and Pakistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baitullah Mehsud in the Pakistan Mountains

Baitullah Mehsud in the Pakistan Mountains

 

 

 What, if any, changes will happen with one person being killed?  Does that change anything?

 

 

 UPDATE: Read http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/08/analysis_baitullahs.php, The Long War, by Bill Roggio for the latest after reading this background report:

 

 

 Is Baithulla Meshud dead or Alive?  Did he die from a bomb shot from a U.S. Drone?  He was killed by the U.S., not the Pakistani Army, if in fact, he is dead. 

FROM DAWN.COM: http://tinyurl.com/lh7qnv

Baitullah Mehsud, the man who claimed responsibility for the attack on a police training academy in Manawan (on the outskirts of Lahore) on March 30, is a veteran of the anti-Soviet ‘jihad’ of the 1980s, and has emerged to become the top Taliban commander in Pakistan. He claims to enjoy a ‘good relationship’ with the Afghan Taliban’s top most commander Mullah Omar. In addition to directly controlling sizeable militias who have waged overt war with Pakistani security forces in Waziristan, Baitullah has also been blamed for a number of terrorist attacks in the rest of the country, including the assassination of former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto. However, despite all of his exploits, he remains elusive and shrouded in mystery.

 

According to Jane’s Intelligence Guide, Baitullah Mehsud was born sometime during the 1970’s in the village of Landi Dhok in NWFP’s Bannu region. Though Bannu is far from the traditional Mehsud stronghold of southern Waziristan, it remains fiercely independent, and its residents continue to display the characteristics which helped the tribe remain one of the few that could never be subjugated by the British during their colonisation of the subcontinent.

 

Despite failing to register on any major intelligence agency’s radar screen until recently, his reputation for bravery made for a steady rise through the Taliban’s ranks. Ironically, Baitullah was among the chosen few Pakistanis who made it to the Time’s 2009 list of the world’s most influential people. However, his so called ‘mystery’ has been enhanced by his refusal to let himself be photographed in recent years, citing religious beliefs, even though he has had no issues with his press conferences being photographed as long as his face remains hidden.

 

Baitullah Mehsud played a leading role in a vicious campaign against the military operation in Waziristan throughout 2004, during which he employed many of the tactics evolved during his time in Afghanistan, including beheading local policemen, guerrilla warfare and using the rugged terrain to hide troops and supplies.

 

At that time, Baitullah was working in close collaboration with Tahir Yuldashev, cofounder of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and Abdullah Mehsud, a former Guantanamo detainee who is also said to be Baitullah’s brother but it remains unconfirmed. Another report by Dawn claimed that one of Abdullah’s brothers was a serving major in the Pakistan army, during the Waziristan operation which failed in rounding up this top rank of militants. Abdullah Mehsud committed suicide in 2007 after security forces raided his hideout in Balochistan.

 

The Pakistan Army, battered by a long campaign against militants in the region, finally offered a cease-fire agreement to him in February 2005. The agreement ceded control of vast tracts of land to Baitullah Mehsud and saw the army agreeing to man existing forts in the region only with paramilitary Frontier Corpsmen in return for a pledge to end sanctuary for foreign fighters and ending opposition to development projects.

 

However, according to the New York Times, Baitullah took this as an opportunity to re-arm his men and consolidate his grip on power in the region. This seems to be borne out by the fact that when the peace treaty collapsed in August 2007, Baitullah’s tribal armies were even stronger than before. After claiming that the army had violated the terms of the ceasefire, his forces launched attacks which seized more than 200 soldiers on August 30, 2007, who were later exchanged for 25 militants in November the same year.

 

On December 14, 2007, he was chosen to lead the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan), an umbrella group aimed at uniting the largest militant factions operating in the tribal agencies and NWFP. He was also blamed for exacerbating the violence during the Red Mosque operation, which saw army officers storming a seminary in the heart of Islamabad.

 

In February 2008, Baitullah reportedly announced another ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani government; however, the Pakistani military officially claims operations against him have not stopped. At the time, Carlotta Gall of the New York Times and Ismail Khan of Dawn reported that high-level officials in the Pakistani government confirmed the deal with him.

 

In July 2008, Baitullah threatened to take action against the NWFP government if its officials did not step down within five days. The warning was met with outright scorn on the government’s part. Only a month later, rumours of his death  from kidney failure circulated, but were later clarified by his doctor. He continues to live.

 

Days before the Manawan attack near Lahore, on March 26, the United States government offered a $5 million reward for information on Baitullah Mehsud, describing him as a key al-Qaeda facilitator intending to attack the United States.
 
In the light of recent developments, analysts are debating whether or not the Pakistan army is truly committed to rooting out Baitullah and his ilk, or whether they prefer to use these militants as an additional line of defence against a possible Indian invasion and for acquiring a ‘strategic depth’ of sorts in the region. However, it remains to be seen if the latest attack in Manawan will spark a change in attitudes towards the TTP and their brethren.

 

Latest reports:

 

Baitullah Mehsud’s wife was killed in a suspected US drone strike in the South Waziristan tribal region on Wednesday. It was reported that two men were also killed along with Mehsud’s second wife. As the identity of the two militants could not be established, there were rumours that the militant commander was also killed in the attack. However, the TTP did not confirm their leader’s death.

 

Pakistan’s Interior Minister said late Thursday that government and military officials were investigating reports of Mehsud’s death.

 

‘We suspect he was killed in the missile strike,’ Malik said. ‘We have some information, but we don’t have material evidence to confirm it.’

 

Meanwhile, ABC News cited a senior US official as saying there was a 95 per cent chance that Mehsud was among those killed in the missile strike. US officials have visual and other indicators it was Mehsud.

Intelligence officials, on Friday, told reporters that the TTP chief was among those killed in the missile strike.

 

The Taliban, as per the standard operating procedure, threw an immediate cordon around the site of the missile strike, but unlike in the past, the cordon was five kilometres wider than the usual practice and no one was allowed either to enter or leave the area.

 

A shura of senior Taliban commanders was called in Karama in the Ladha sub-division Wednesday evening to take stock of the situation following the missile strike and phone access to Zangara was blocked.

 

Some officials now privately claim with a degree of confidence that the TTP chief had been killed along with his wife — their confidence level in the authenticity of their assessment hovers between 60 to 85 to 95 per cent.

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