The Guardian and the BBC are both reporting this morning that Hakimullah Mahsud, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader thought to have been killed by a US missile on 14 January this year, is still alive.
According to Declan Walsh of The Guardian, a senior Pakistani intelligence official confirmed the news and said: "He had some wounds but he is basically OK." The BBC confirms the story but says that his standing within the TTP has been diminished and that other leaders, including Waliur Rahman, are now playing a more prominent role.
The news, if true, will be a blow to the US, who blame him for his role in a suicide bomb attack on a CIA base in Eastern Afghanistan in December last year that killed seven CIA officers. Hakimullah's reported death only two weeks later in a drone missile strike in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan was seen as an eloquent response. However, even though Hakimullah's death was confirmed by Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, it was never confirmed by the Americans. Nor did an obituary appear in the jihadi media, as is usual on such occasions.
Update: Today, at the Pentagon in Washington, the following exchange took place between a reporter and Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell:
"Q In light of the reports today that Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban leader, is actually, in fact, alive, after U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials had declared him dead after the drone strike, are there any concerns in this building about the quality of intelligence that we're receiving in that part of the world?
MR. MORRELL: I mean, frankly, I've seen those reports. I don't know how much stock people put in them. I think we've always been very careful from -- from this podium in particular about talking about individuals and their fate.
The only thing I would add to that -- I don't know -- I can't tell you definitively one way or another. Part of that is I don't think we ever officially commented on any of these.
But I can also tell you that I certainly have seen no evidence that the person you speak of is -- is operational today or is executing or exerting authority over the Pakistan Taliban as he once did. So I don't know if that reflects him being alive or dead, but he clearly is not running the Pakistani Taliban anymore."