Taliban Pick Young Leader to Replace Mehsud

But still insist old leader isn't dead
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2009 3:08 PM CDT
Hakimullah Mehsud has been appointed the new head of the Pakistan Taliban.   (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mehsud)
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(Newser) – Despite their insistence that a US drone strike didn’t kill their leader, members of Pakistan’s Taliban movement have already replaced him, the BBC reports. Hakimullah Mehsud, a military chief in his late 20s, will succeed Baitullah Mehsud, a close ally reportedly killed earlier this month. The unanimous decision comes after weeks of rumored infighting and shootouts among Taliban members.

A Taliban spokesman insists that Baitullah Mehsud is seriously ill and wanted to see his successor appointed before he dies, but many will view the announcement as confirmation of his death, the BBC adds. Hakimullah Mehsud, who already controls an estimated 2,000 fighters, is said to be just as ruthless as his predecessor and could pose an even bigger threat to Pakistan and foreign troops stationed across the border in Afghanistan.