The claim that the Pakistani Taliban chief was killed came from officials who said they intercepted a number of Taliban radio conversations.
In about a half a dozen intercepts, the militants discussed whether their chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed on January 12 in the North Waziristan tribal area. Some militants confirmed Mehsud was dead, and one criticised others for talking about the issue over the radio. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Asimullah Mehsud denied the group's leader was killed and said he was not in the area where the drone strike occurred.
“Our Ameer (Chief) is very much alive and in full contact with our groups”. Asim also claimed responsibility for the attack on the District Police Officer’s (DPO) office in Dera Ismail Khan. “They were our suicide bombers, and our reaction will intensify with the passage of time,” he said while completely denying any peace talks with the government.
Talking to a Pakistani private TV channel, a resident from the area, where the drone strike had occurred, said that Hakimullah Mehsud’s presence has been reported from the surrounding area.
“It is not yet 100 per cent sure that Hakimullah Mehsud was killed but we are investigating the matter,” intelligence officials told the private TV channel. However, high-ranking Pakistani officials said that Hakimullah Mehsud’s death could neither be denied nor confirmed.
In early 2010, both Pakistani and American officials said they believed a missile strike had killed Hakimullah Mehsud along the border of North and South Waziristan. They were proved wrong when videos appeared showing him still alive.
The Pakistani Taliban is linked to attacks against US targets. They trained the Pakistani-American who tried to detonate a car bomb in New York City's Times Square in 2010 and is tied to a suicide bombing that killed seven CIA agents at an Afghan base in 2009.
The Taliban and other groups have carried out hundreds of bombings over the last five years that have killed thousands of Pakistani troops and civilians as part of a campaign to install a hard-line Islamist government.
The attacks are so common that the country's interior minister in December actually thanked the Taliban for acting on what he said was a "request" not to stage attacks during Ashura.
The continuing strikes by presumed religious extremists come during a political crisis that pits the Pakistani civilian government against the military, sparking rumors of an impending coup.
Last week the military warned the government of possible "grievous consequences" ahead, and President Asif Ali Zardari took a one-day trip to Dubai that renewed speculation that he might flee the country.
Analysts say the military may be looking for the Supreme Court to push out Zardari rather than risk an outright takeover.