Official: Likelihood of Pakistani Taliban leader’s death ’90 percent’

Villagers gather at the rubble of houses belonging to supporters of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
The United States believes Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone attack last week, President Obama’s national security adviser said Sunday.

“We think so,” Gen. Jim Jones told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding, “We put it in the 90 percent [likelihood] category.” Pakistan’s foreign and interior ministers said Friday the government was still waiting to conduct DNA analysis to confirm the identity of a man killed Wednesday in an unmanned aerial vehicle strike. The suspected U.S. drone targeted the home of Mehsud’s father-in-law, Mulvi Ikram ud Din, in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area, an intelligence official said. Taliban officials have denied reports of Mehsud’s death. Speaking to “Fox News Sunday” about reports that Mehsud was killed, Jones said, “All evidence that we have suggests that,” but he emphasized that the United States cannot be sure. Watch what Mehsud’s death would mean for anti-terror effort »

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If Mehsud was killed, it means that U.S. cooperation with Pakistan is “having a good effect and that we’re moving in the right direction,” Jones said. “Mehsud was a very bad individual, a real thug responsible for a lot of violence, a lot of innocent people losing their lives.” A top Pakistani official said the government has information that a leading candidate to replace Mehsud was killed in a gunfire exchange Saturday between supporters of senior Taliban leaders.

Jones said the United States does not know if that is accurate. But, he added, “if there is dissension within the ranks … this is a positive indication that in Pakistan things are turning for the better.”