A top Pakistani Taliban commander says he is temporarily assuming
leadership of the militant group because its chief Baitullah Mehsud is
U.S. and Pakistani officials say they suspect Mehsud was killed earlier
this month in a drone missile strike. Taliban commanders have given
differing stories on whether he was killed, but Mehsud himself has not
been heard from since the strike.
Maulvi Faqir Mohammad says Taliban commanders recently held a meeting
because Mehsud is seriously ill, and named him as the new temporary
There have been reports of a struggle over the leadership of the
Pakistani Taliban, and other commanders have not publicly said if they
approve of Mohammad's leadership role.
Pakistan has had some success against militants recently, having
captured two top Taliban associates, including senior Mehsud aide
Mehsud is blamed for a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan over the
past two years and is accused of orchestrating the assassination of
former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Meanwhile, U.S. General David Petraeus is in Pakistan for talks with
top military leaders on the army offensive against Islamic extremists.
General Petraeus met with Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani in the
garrison city of Rawalpindi, where they discussed closer military
cooperation, including future deliveries of U.S. equipment to help
Pakistan expand its offensive against the Taliban.
Pakistani troops have largely dislodged Islamic fighters from
northwestern Swat Valley and surrounding areas, although the region
remains insecure due to sporadic militant violence.
U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke is also in Pakistan, where he met
with top officials on Tuesday to urge them to maintain pressure on
Islamic extremists based in the country.