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Taliban dispute leader’s death

Tue., Feb. 2, 2010

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – Taliban militants in Pakistan promised on Monday to soon prove their leader was still alive, dismissing as government propaganda reports he may have died from injuries sustained in a U.S. missile attack close to Afghanistan.

State television reported Sunday that Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud had died of injuries sustained in a drone strike earlier this month in the lawless frontier zone. The report was apparently based on witnesses who said they attended his funeral last week.

Mehsud’s death would be a major victory against an al-Qaida ally already under pressure from U.S. and Pakistani attacks, but it would be unlikely to deal a killer blow to the organization. There are at least two commanders believed waiting in the wings to replace him.

A close aide to Mehsud called the report of his death “government propaganda” and said he was “doing well.”

“We will try in a day or two to give you proof that he is alive,” the commander told the Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

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