Top Militant Denies Taliban Shootout

Pakistan insists dead leader's aide killed in power struggle
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2009 3:27 PM CDT
In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009, Pakistani villagers look at a house belonging to supporters of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, destroyed by authorities in Pakistan.   (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mehsud)
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(Newser) – Days after Pakistan's Taliban leader reportedly died in a US airstrike, conflicting stories are emerging about a power struggle in the militant group, the New York Times reports. Waliur Rehman, a commander who had wanted to lead the Taliban, denies killing a young aide to the former leader in a shootout. But Pakistan officials insist that Hakimullah and Baitullah Mehsud, the aide and ex-chief, are both dead.

In a call to Reuters, Rehman insisted they are alive. “He definitely will call you and tell you everything,” Rehman said of Hakimullah Mehsud. Analysts say a Taliban power struggle could give al-Qaeda greater influence; the two have become increasingly intertwined. “When we need something, they take care of us, and when they need something, we help them,” a Taliban fighter says of al-Qaeda.