The AfPak Reader

September 8, 2009

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 8 – Volume 1

Filed under: Enemy Profiles,Journalist Chronicles,Predator Strikes,Summer 2009 — huntingnasrallah @ 10:38 pm

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 8 – Volume 1

Analysis: Pakistani claims regarding Baitullah’s death, shura clash, are suspect
By Bill Roggio
August 9, 2009 12:28 AM

After several senior Taliban leaders went on the record to deny reports that Baitullah was killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan, the Pakistani government’s claim that Baitullah is dead is now in doubt. Similarly, Pakistani government claims of infighting between potential successors to Baitullah also must be viewed with skepticism. Given the Pakistani government’s poor track record when claiming senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, the reports of Baitullah’s death are now suspect.

Taliban leaders Hakeemullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain Mehsud, spokesman Maulvi Omar, and aide Qari Hidayatullah all spoke forcefully today insisting that reports of Baitullah’s death were false and that Baitullah would be issuing proof he was indeed alive.

Despite the Taliban’s denial that Baitullah had been killed, Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, is insisting Baitullah was indeed killed, and Malik upped the ante by claiming that two potential successors subsequently battled over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban.

Malik, who admitted to the BBC that he has no hard evidence Baitullah was killed, said Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Mehsud had a shootout at a shura meeting sometime on Friday in the Ladha region in South Waziristan. The meeting was purportedly held to choose a successor to Baitullah. The report was rebroadcast on Pakistani state television. Malik claimed that Hakeemullah and possibly Waliur were killed during the clash.

“Obviously, it is not a story made up by us,” Malik told the BBC “This fight must have happened because of the succession.”

“They [Hakeemullah and Waliur] had been fighting in the past and we have information that there has been enmity between Waliur and Hakeemullah since they were fighting together in Kurram valley,” he said. “Hakeemullah was replaced by Baitullah Mehsud with Waliur.”

But a Taliban leader from the Ladha region denied that a clash ever took place and claimed to have spoken to Waliur since the alleged incident.

“There was no fighting in the Shura,” a local Taliban commander named Noor Sayed told the media. “Both Waliur Rehman and Hakeemullah are safe and sound.”

Hakeemullah confirmed he was alive when he spoke to the media the day following Malik’s pronouncement that Hakeemullah had been killed. [After this report was published, Waliur Rehman spoke to the media and denied such a shootout occurred].

Malik is speaking as if the burden of proof is now on the to Taliban provide evidence they are alive, rather than on the government to prove they are dead.

“If Baitullah Mehsud is alive, or Hakeemullah is alive, why don’t they bring out a video,” Malik said to the BBC. “Every telephone has a camera on it. They can just get one out and show people that they are alive. I challenge them.”

Recent history favors the Taliban’s account

While it is still unknown if Baitullah survived the strike, the Pakistani government’s track record in accurately reporting on the deaths of senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders is poor [see the list below]. The Taliban, on the other hand, have been honest about the deaths of their senior leaders. Each time they have refuted a claim of a leader being killed, they have been able to prove the commander is alive.

Since 2006, the Pakistani government has inaccurately reported on the deaths of 10 senior al Qaeda leaders. Some of these leaders were reported killed multiple times, only to resurface. Also during that time period, the Pakistani government wrongly claimed eight senior Taliban leader were killed. Again, these reports were disproved.

Most recently, Malik claimed that Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah was killed or seriously wounded during fighting against the Pakistani military. Multiple Taliban leaders denied the claim, and Fazlullah later broadcast on his illegal FM radio station in Swat despite the ongoing offensive.

The Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda have been accurate about the deaths of their senior leaders, and have issued martyrdom statements or eulogies for those killed. These extremist groups view the death of a leader or fighter while waging jihad to be an honor, and the deaths are used as propaganda for recruitment. Accurately reporting the status of the senior commanders is also crucial to maintain command and control among the rank and file.

For as long as The Long War Journal has tracked the reports of deaths of senior al Qaeda and Taliban commanders, there is not one single instance in which these groups practiced deception when it came to official reports on the death of one of their leaders.
Given these facts, the likelihood is that Baitullah Mehsud survived the strike, as reported first here at The Long War Journal on Aug. 6. And, if Baitullah survived the strike, there would be no need for the Taliban shura to hold a meeting to select a successor to Baitullah.

It may be possible the Taliban shura was held to discuss other issues, and Hakeemullah and Waliur did indeed clash, but this is also out of character for the Taliban. There is not a single recorded instance of such a shootout or armed clash at a Pakistani Taliban shura meeting.

Contentious meetings have been held between rivals such as Baitullah and Mullah Nazir, and yet these meetings have ended successfully. Also, any meeting to select Baitullah’s replacement would likely be attended by senior most Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, such as Siraj Haqqani and Abu Yahya al Libi. Lower level Taliban commanders would place themselves, their families, and tribes at great risk if they endangered the lives of the likes of Siraj and Yahya.

The Taliban typically carry out their vendettas by way of assassins, armed clashes, or raids. One such recent example is the feud between Baitullah and Zainuddin Mehsud. Their forces clashed regularly in South Waziristan, Tank, and Dera Ismail Khan. Baitullah ultimately had a bodyguard assassinate Zainuddin.

False reports:

The following al Qaeda and Taliban leaders were falsely reported killed at some point by Pakistani intelligence sources. These leaders later appeared in the media or on propaganda tapes.

Al Qaeda leaders reported killed who later resurfaced:
Ayman al Zawahiri: Several large news outlets reported that al Qaeda’s second in command was killed or seriously wounded in the May 14, 2008, airstrike in South Waziristan that killed al Qaeda WMD chief Abu Khabab al Masri. The Long War Journal was unconvinced that Zawahiri had been killed at the time. A week later, Zawahiri appeared on a videotape urging Pakistanis to fight the government.
Mustafa Abu Yazid: The Pakistani military claimed that Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s senior commander in Afghanistan, was killed in a battle in the Bajaur tribal agency in August 2008. The Long War Journal was highly critical of the reports of Yazid’s death. Al Qaeda never confirmed Yazid’s death, and the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies never presented evidence he was killed. Yazid has since appeared on multiple videotapes, including the Oct. 4 release that featured Adam Gadahn. The Pakistani military, who refer to Yazid as Abu Saeed al Masri, claimed Yazid was dead as recently as Sept. 26.
Abu Khabab al Masri, Khalid Habib, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, Abd Rahman al Masri al Maghribi, Abu Obaidah al Masri, and Marwan al Suri
Pakistani intelligence reported that six senior al Qaeda operatives were killed in a US airstrike in Damadola in January 2006. The six operatives reported killed were: Abu Khabab al Masri, the WMD committee chief and senior bomb maker; Khalid Habib, a senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan who later became chief of al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army; Abd Rahman al Masri al Maghribi, Zawahiri’s son-in-law and a military commander; Abu Obaidah al Masri, al Qaeda’s external operations chief and commander in Afghanistan’s Kunar province; Marwan al Suri, the Waziristan operations chief; and Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, the external operations chief who also served as a commander in southwestern Afghanistan.
Nineteen months later, The Washington Post reported that all of the al Qaeda commanders survived the strike.
Four of the six later were killed, captured, or died of natural causes. Abd al Hadi al Iraqi was captured while attempting to enter Iraqi in late 2006. Abu Obaidah al Masri died of natural causes sometime in late 2007 or early 2008. Abu Khabab al Masri was killed in an airstrike in July 2008. Khalid Habib was killed in an airstrike in October 2008.
Adam Gadahn: Numerous Pakistani sources told multiple major news outlets that Gadahn was killed in the Jan. 28, 2008, airstrike in North Waziristan that killed senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi. The Long War Journal was highly critical of the reports of Gadahn’s death. Speculation grew after Gadahn failed to appear on al Qaeda propaganda tapes, As Sahab stopped producing English translations for the tapes, and some problems were reported with the release of videos and audio. Gadahn later appeared on a tape on Oct. 4, along with Yazid. Gadahn is the American al Qaeda spokesman who is wanted by the US for treason.
Rashid Rauf: US intelligence, based on reports from Pakistani intelligence, claimed that Rashid Rauf, an al Qaeda leader who is in charge of al Qaeda’s external operations branch responsible for attacks in Europe, was killed during the November 2008 Predator strike in North Waziristan that was also thought to have killed Abu Zubair al Masri and two other al Qaeda operatives. He was later reported to have trained European al Qaeda operatives to conduct attacks in Belgium, France, Holland, and England.
The Long War Journal was skeptical of the claims that Rauf had been killed. US military and intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that Rauf’s death was never confirmed and that reports that he was killed in the November strike in South Waziristan were premature. Shortly after the November strike, Rauf’s family and his lawyer claimed he was still alive. Taliban fighters close to Rauf also said he was alive.

Taliban leaders reported killed who later resurfaced:
Baitullah Mehsud: On Sept. 30, 2008, several major news sources reported that Pakistani Taliban leader and South Waziristan warlord Baitullah Mehsud died of natural causes related to kidney problems. The Long War Journal was very skeptical that Baitullah was dead, and intelligence sources said he was alive. On Oct. 1, the Taliban denied the report. Baitullah was seen visiting villages in South Waziristan to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr on Oct. 4. Baitullah was also thought to have been killed in an airstrike earlier in 2009.
Mullah Sangeen Zadran: Pakistani intelligence sources claimed that Sangeen, the right-hand man of Haqqani Network military commander Siraj, was killed along with Baitullah and Qari Hussain during an airstrike at the funeral of one of Baitullah’s commanders. The Taliban quickly debunked these claims.
Faqir Mohammed: The Pakistani military claimed Faqir Mohammed, the deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban and the group’s leader in the Bajaur tribal agency, was killed in a battle in Bajaur in August 2008. A Taliban spokesman immediately denied the report, and Faqir appeared in front of the media a day later to dispute the claim of his death. The Pakistani military also claimed that Faqir’s son, Abdullah Mohammed, was killed, although no proof of his death has been offered.
Mullah Fazlullah: Several times during the spring 2009 offensive in Swat, the Pakistani military and the interior ministry claimed Mullah Fazlullah was killed. Fazlullah’s aides denied the reports, and in July 2009, Fazlullah was later heard giving a speech on the radio.
Omar Khalid: The military said Omar Khalid, the commander of Taliban forces in the Mohmand tribal agency, was killed during operations in the region in January 2009. Taliban commanders denied the claims, and Khalid later spoke to the media.
Ibn Amin: The Pakistani military and the interior ministry claimed Ibn Amin, the leader of al Qaeda’s paramilitary brigade in Swat, was killed in May 2009 during the Swat offensive. Amin later resurfaced and took control of the Taliban forces in Swat after Shah Doran, Fazlullah’s deputy and Swat’s military commander, was killed. Doran is the only senior Swat Taliban leader killed during the three-month battle.
Qari Hussain: The Pakistani military claimed Qari Hussain, a senior lieutenant to Baitullah Mehsud who ran a suicide bomber nursery in South Waziristan, was killed during operations in January 2008. Hussain held a press conference in South Waziristan on May 23, 2008, and mocked the Pakistani military. “I am alive, don’t you see me?” Hussain said.
Maulvi Omar: The Pakistani military claimed Omar, who is the spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, was killed during an October 2008 airstrike in the Badano region in Taliban-controlled Bajaur. Omar later appeared on television. The Long War Journal was skeptical of the reports of Omar’s death.

Extended Notes (Roggio’s Links)


Pakistan demands Taliban evidence
2009/08/08 23:40:54 GMT

Pakistan’s interior minister has challenged the Taliban to prove their leaders are still alive, after reports that two of them have been killed.

Rehman Malik told the BBC officials had non-physical evidence that the top commander,
Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a US missile attack on Wednesday.

He said intelligence suggested a shoot-out later broke out between Mehsud’s potential successors in which one died.

The Taliban has accused the interior ministry of making up the incident.

However, the militant group’s spokesmen were also unable to offer any physical evidence to disprove the government’s claims.

‘Credible information’

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Malik denied the allegation that the Pakistani security forces had no evidence proving that Mehsud was killed along with one of his wives in a strike on his father-in-law’s house in the Zangarha area, north-east of Ladha, on Wednesday.

“ The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies ”
Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud

“The day before yesterday, there was credible information coming from inside the area that Baitullah Mehsud had been killed,” the minister said.

“This credible information had come right from sources based in South Waziristan, and particularly in Ladha.”

But Mr Malik admitted that the government did not have “any material evidence so far confirming that Baitullah Mehsud is dead”.

He said intelligence suggested that a “scuffle” had broken out between Mehsud’s potential successors in Waziristan on Friday in which one of them, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed.
Local media also said a shoot-out had happened.

“Obviously, it is not a story made up by us. This fight must have happened because of the succession,” he added.

Mr Malik said Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, the other leader allegedly involved in the shootout, had long been hostile towards each other.

“They had been fighting in the past and we have information that there has been enmity between Waliur and Hakimullah since they were fighting together in Kurram valley,” he said. “Hakimullah was replaced by Baitullah Mehsud with Waliur.”

On Saturday morning, however, Hakimullah Mehsud told the BBC by telephone that reports of Mehsud’s death were “ridiculous”.

“The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies,” he said.

“We know what our enemies want to achieve – it’s the joint policy of the ISI [Pakistani intelligence service] and FBI – they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target.”

He said the Pakistani leader had decided to adopt the tactics of Osama bin Laden and stay silent. He said he would issue a message in the next few days.

But Mr Malik challenged the Taliban to prove their version of events.

“If Baitullah Mehsud is alive, or Hakimullah is alive, why don’t they bring out a video. Every telephone has a camera on it. They can just get one out and show people that they are alive. I challenge them.”

Believed to command as many as 20,000 pro-Taliban militants, Mehsud came to worldwide attention in the aftermath of the 2007 Red Mosque siege in Islamabad – in which the security forces confronted and forcibly ejected militant students loyal to him.

He has been blamed by both Pakistan and the US for a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country, as well as suicide attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.



U.S. says evidence Taliban chief dead “pretty conclusive”
Sun Aug 9, 2009 3:36pm EDT
By Alamgir Bitani

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – The United States said on Sunday the evidence was “pretty conclusive” that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud is dead, while a senior Taliban commander denied reports of infighting among its leaders.

The White House had earlier said it could not confirm the Pakistan government’s claims that Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud had been killed by a CIA drone.

But asked on Sunday if Baitullah had been killed in the attack, national security adviser Jim Jones told NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We think so. We put it in the 90 percent category.”

“We know that there are some reports now from the Mehsud tribe that he wasn’t (killed), but the evidence is pretty conclusive.”

The comments add to a volley of unverifiable claims and counter-claims by the Pakistani government and the Taliban that have surrounded the reported death of Mehsud last Wednesday.

Western governments with troops in Afghanistan are watching to see if any new Pakistani Taliban leader would shift focus from fighting the Pakistani government and put the movement’s weight behind the Afghan insurgency led by Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Taliban commanders have said the government is fabricating reports of dissent within its ranks to promote division and undermine the movement.

Taliban commander Wali-ur-Rehman earlier on Sunday denied reports he had been involved in a shootout with a rival for the Pakistani Taliban leadership, Hakimullah Mehsud.

Wali-ur-Rehman, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location to a Reuters reporter who had spoken with him several times before, also denied that any tribal council meeting, or shura, had taken place to decide on a successor to Baitullah.

“There are no differences. There was no fighting. We both are alive, and there was no special shura meeting,” he said.

Hakimullah would call journalists soon to prove he too was alive, Rehman said.
“He definitely will call you and tell you everything,” he said.

Asked about Wali-ur-Rehman’s comments, an intelligence officer in the region, who declined to identified, told Reuters: “He’s just making it up. The shootout took place and some wounded were shifted to North Waziristan.”


Hakimullah Mehsud had earlier denied that Baitullah Mehsud was killed by the U.S. drone strike in the first place.

Baitullah’s deputy, Noor Said, told Reuters by telephone that a video would soon be released to prove that Baitullah was still alive.

But Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Reuters it was “quite certain” Baitullah was dead.

“The problem is we don’t have material evidence and that won’t be available for quite some time because obviously it’s a remote and inaccessible area,” Abbas said.

Baitullah, who suffers from diabetes, has been ill and has not been looking after the movement’s affairs for the past three months, Rehman conceded.

U.S. officials have said the death of Baitullah, if confirmed, could set the movement back temporarily but was unlikely to cripple the Taliban in Pakistan or have a big impact on efforts to stem the group’s resurgence in Afghanistan.

Some analysts have said the Pakistani leadership would be split over who should be the next chief, suggesting denials of his death could be aimed at buying time to choose a new leader.

“In terms of the region, it (Baitullah’s death) means that the Pakistani armed forces and the Pakistan government are doing quite well in terms of their fight against extremism,” White House’s Jim Jones said.

“Baitullah Mehsud was the public enemy number one in Pakistan, so it’s their biggest target, and we’ve already seen evidence of dissension in the ranks about who’s going to follow him.”

Hakimullah, who controls fighters in the Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber tribal regions, is regarded as one of the leading contenders to replace Baitullah Mehsud, who had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.

Wali-ur-Rehman is another shura member and a former spokesman for Baitullah.
(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider; Writing by Jason Subler; editing by Patrick Graham)
***Compiler’s Note***Fraud Report Links will necessarily be an Enemy Profile Supplemental Report for The AfPak Reader


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