American and Pakistani officials say it looked more and more likely that Baitullah Mehsud, who had a $5 million bounty on his head, was dead. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told reporters in Islamabad on Friday Aug. 7 that, “According to my intelligence information, the news is correct. We are trying to get on-the-ground verification to be 100% sure. But according to my information, he has been taken out.” It may be days, or weeks, before confirmation is obtained. Hellfire strikes often obliterate targets, leaving little for investigators to work with. Pakistani officials are reportedly trying to collect material evidence, but U.S. intelligence officials will also be paying close attention to chatter on the Taliban’s communication channels. “Taking Mehsud off the battlefield would be a major victory,” says a U.S. counterterrorism official. “He has American blood on his hands with attacks on our forces in Afghanistan. This would also affirm the effectiveness of our government’s counterterrorism policies.”
If confirmed, Mehsud’s death would bring to a dramatic end a short but terrifying career.