More disinformation and obfuscation in connection with this story. The bottom line is that Pakistani forces are unwilling and/or unable to access these areas and verify what is going on.
“Taleban commander denies shootout, says alive,” from Reuters, August 9:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A Pakistani Taleban commander who the government said was involved in a deadly shootout with a rival commander denied on Sunday that there had been any fighting and said both he and the rival were alive.
The comments by Wali-ur-Rehman add to a volley of unverifiable claims and counter-claims by the government and the Taleban that have surrounded the reported death of Pakistani Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a US missile attack on Wednesday.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said on Saturday that Taleban commander Wali-ur-Rehman had been involved in a shootout with rival Hakimullah Mehsud, and that there were reports one of them died.
Wali-ur-Rehman, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location to a Reuters reporter who had spoken with him several times before, denied that any council meeting, or shura, had taken place to decide on a successor to Baitullah Mehsud.
“˜There are no differences. There was no fighting. We both are alive, and there was no special shura meeting,” he said.
Hakimullah Mehsud had earlier denied that Baitullah Mehsud had been killed by the US drone strike in the first place.
Taleban commanders have said the government is fabricating reports of dissent within its ranks in order to promote division and undermine the movement.
Hakimullah Mehsud would call journalists soon to prove he too was alive, Rehman said.
“˜He definitely will call you and tell you everything,” he said.
Western governments with troops in Afghanistan are watching to see if any new Pakistani Taleban leader would shift focus from fighting the Pakistani government and put the movement’s weight behind the Afghan insurgency led by Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Hakimullah, who controls fighters in the Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber tribal regions, is regarded as one of the leading contenders to replace Baitullah Mehsud, who had a $5 million US bounty on his head.