Pakistani Taliban Leader Dead Or Dying?

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

PAKISTAN - The leader of Pakistan's increasingly bold Taliban movement is very ill, but intelligence officials in the United States and Pakistan have cast doubt on reports that Baitullah Mehsud may have died.

Mehsud is only in his mid to late thirties, but is believed to suffer from multiple health issues, including diabetes and kidney problems.

One of Mehsud's subcommanders told CBS News' Sami Yousafzai he'd met with the powerful militant leader on Tuesday night and that his blood sugar level was improving, and with it, his general health.

Just hours after unconfirmed reports of his death surfaced late on Tuesday, a senior Pakistani security official told CBS News' Farhan Bokhari the Taliban branch inside his country was "scrambling to appoint two new deputies in a possible preparation for a succession."

"Unless someone produces a body, I can't confirm Baitullah Mehsud's death. But we are witnessing intelligence reports along the lines of the Taliban scrambling to appoint two new deputies," said a senior Pakistani security official. "Is this the Taliban preparation for a succession? That is the question we are asking but there are no answers as yet."

Mehsud's death was reported overnight by the privately owned GEO TV channel and pan-Arab satellite news channel Al Jazeera, citing unnamed security sources in Pakistan.

Wednesday, a senior Arab diplomat in Pakistan with access to intelligence information told Bokhari "we are no now hearing reports that he is ill but still alive."

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the earlier reports of Mehsud's death "may well have been premature."


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