ISLAMABAD - The leader of the Pakistani Taliban movement is believed to have been killed in a US drone attack in the country's tribal belt.
"Six to seven TTP members were talking to each other through wireless radio in the conversations we heard, talking about Hakimullah Mehsud being hit by a drone when he was heading to a meeting at a spot near Miranshah," an intelligence official told Reuters.
"They referred to him by his codename."
Pakistani officials say that they intercepted wireless radio chats between Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters detailing how Hakimullah was killed.
"Based on our intercepts, Hakimullah was heading to a meeting in Nawa Adda," said another intelligence official.
Nawa Adda is a village in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan.
Hakimullah was named the Taliban leader after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.
Born in 1981 in Laddah area, Hakimullah hails from South Waziristan's Shobikhel branch of Mehsud tribe, the most powerful tribe in the region.
He had been acting as the TTP spokesman and commander of Orakzai, Kurram, Darra Adamkhel agencies near Afghan borders for two years.
Known as an emotional and somewhat reckless, he is reportedly fond of media limelight.
Hakimullah came to limelight three years ago when he was appointed as TTP commander in Orakzai region, where he led armed clashes with security forces, and anti-Taliban tribal militia.
He was later named as the TTP's co-spokesman along with Maulvi Umar, who was arrested by security forces three days ago.
Joining the Taliban at the age of 21, he has never fought US forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
But the Pakistani Taliban denied reports about Hakimullah's death.
"There is no truth in reports about his death, TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters.
However, he is a human being and can die any time. He is a holy warrior and we will wish him martyrdom.
"We will continue jihad if Hakimullah is alive or dead. There are so many lions in this jungle and one lion will replace another one to continue this noble mission."
In 2010, media reports claimed that Hakimullah was killed in a US drone attack, but later it proved that the Taliban leader was alive.
If reports about Hakimullah's death proved true, it could ease pressure on Pakistani security forces, who have struggled to weaken the group.
The TTP launched an insurgency in 2007 after the military began a major crackdown on militants.
Fighters were particularly incensed when Pakistani security forces stormed the Red Mosque complex run by hardline scholars in the capital, Islamabad. The government said 102 people were killed in fighting in the incident.
The TTP delivered on threats to carry out revenge attacks in Pakistan after US special forces killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a secret raid in a Pakistani town in May last year.More recently, some senior Taliban commanders said the umbrella group had started exploratory peace talks with the government. But it is not clear if all factions were on board.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net