* Hakeemullah asks govt to prove Baitullah’s death
* US ‘pretty sure’ TTP chief dead
Staff Report (Daily Times)
TANK: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) confirmed on Monday that the group’s chief, Baitullah Mehsud, had been killed in a US drone strike on Wednesday, and announced a 15-day mourning period, reported a private TV channel.
Newly-appointed TTP spokesman Azam Tariq told the channel the TTP would observe a ceasefire during mourning period. He said a successor to Baitullah had not been chosen yet.
But a close aide of the TTP chief demanded that the government prove Baitullah was dead.
“I challenge (Interior Minister) Rehman Malik to prove that Baitullah is dead,” Hakeemullah, who was reportedly killed in a shootout on Friday, told journalists over the telephone. Hakeemullah said, “I am alive … I am here to prove that I am alive and so is Baitullah,” he said. “Baitullah is alive and healthy … he will come before the media soon. There is no succession,” he said.
However, Hakeemullah’s statement that Baitullah is healthy contradicts a statement by another Taliban leader, Maulana Noor Syed, who claimed the TTP chief “is seriously ill”.
Meanwhile, the US is “pretty sure” that Baitullah has been killed, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said on Monday. He said the development “shows that Pakistan has made progress in moving to root out extremists”.