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August 7, 2009
Presumed Bhutto assassin killed in US strike
Baitullah Mahsud, Pakistan's most wanted terrorist and a staunch Al Qaeda ally, was apparently killed in an attack by a US drone on early Wednesday morning, according to a piece in the Los Angles Times by Alex Rodriguez and Greg Miller:
Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mahsud, Pakistan's most wanted terrorist and a staunch Al Qaeda ally, was killed in an American missile strike, a Pakistani minister confirmed Friday, dealing a severe blow to militants who have been the architects of some of Pakistan's worst terror attacks in recent years.
Mahsud's death represents a significant victory in the ongoing bid by Pakistan and the U.S. to eliminate the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Mahsud, believed to be 35, is aligned with Al Qaeda and is thought to be responsible for dozens of suicide bombing attacks, beheadings and killings throughout Pakistan.
He was also suspected as the mastermind of the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
"Our intelligence sources confirm Baitullah Mahsud's death," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. "According to my sources, this news is correct, and he has been taken out."
On Thursday, a U.S. official said that, if confirmed, the death "would be a major victory" for U.S. efforts to defeat the Taliban in South Asia.
"Mehsud brought different tribal groups together under his banner of extremism," said the officials. "The loss of his leadership skills and experience would be significant. It wouldn't mean the end of the Pakistani Taliban, but it would be a true setback for them.
This is indeed something to celebrate. Meshud brought the suicide attack to Pakistani's major cities two years ago and authorities have been trying to shut him down ever since. A recent offensive in the Swat Valley by the Pakistani army was successful in driving his forces back into the mountainous Northwest Frontier Provinces. And that is where he met his end on Wednesday.
The Taliban won't fall apart but their operational structure has taken a huge hit. The Pakistani army must now follow up with their long delayed offensive into the NWFP and hit the Taliban while they are reeling. This action will benefit not only Pakistan, but also relieve some of the pressure on Afghanistan where the Taliban has been gaining ground in recent months.