ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR, Pakistan, (Reuters) – The head of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a U.S. drone strike yesterday, security and Taliban sources said, in a blow to the fragmented movement fighting against the nuclear-armed South Asian nation. Hakimullah Mehsud was one of the most wanted and feared men in Pakistan with a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, leading an insurgency from a mountain hideout in North Waziristan, the Taliban’s stronghold on the Afghan frontier. “We confirm with great sorrow that our esteemed leader was martyred in a drone attack,” a senior Taliban commander said.
In Washington, two U.S. officials confirmed Mehsud’s death in a CIA drone strike. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
The killing is the latest setback for the Pakistani Taliban, a group aligned with their Afghan namesakes, who have staged attacks against Pakistani armed forces and civilians in their fight to topple the government.
His death is almost certain to scupper the prospect of peace talks between the Taliban and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who won a landslide election victory in May by promising to bring peace to the country.