DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Two commanders of the Pakistani Taliban acknowledged today that the militants’ top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by a U.S. missile strike.
It was the first time the militants acknowledged Mehsud’s death, first reported shortly after the CIA missile strike Aug. 5 near the Afghan border.
Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman called The Associated Press this evening on the same phone to make the announcement and spoke to an Associated Press reporter who recognized both their voices.
Each said Baitullah Mehsud died only on Sunday, though they acknowledged it was from wounds in the missile attack.
“He was wounded. He got the wounds in a drone strike and he was martyred two days ago,” Hakimullah Mehsud said. Rehman later repeated the same statement.
The pair, who had served as top aides to Mehsud, said they were calling together to dispel reports of disunity in the Taliban leadership, and both said Hakimullah Mehsud now leads the Pakistani Taliban.