For at least the third time Pakistani sources are reporting that TTP leader Hakimullah Mahsud has been killed in a drone strike. The sources say he was one of six passengers in a vehicle that was destroyed in a CIA drone attack on 12 January, close to the village of Nawa Adda in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. Initially it was reported that the car's occupants were from Turkmenistan, but later reports placed Hakimullah amongst the dead.
If the story is true it is likely that the feared TTP leader was given up by other militants in the region. Over recent months the TTP has split into numerous factions over the issue of whether or not to continue attacks on Pakistan's army, police and on civilians. Hakimullah and his increasingly isolated group - under the influence of al-Qaeda - refused to stop such attacks, while many other factions, including that of his rival, Waliur Rahman from South Waziristan, were engaged in negotiations with the Army.
Last week, in a move that is likely to have further isolated Hakimullah and his supporters, his men murdered more than 20 members of the Frontier Constabulary in cold blood. They also exploded a bomb in a market place, killing and injuring large numbers of men, women and children.
Last night the TTP's official spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan denied that the TTP leader was dead, although less confidently than in the past: "There is no truth in reports about his death. 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