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Pakistan Criticizes US Killing of Pakistani Taliban Leader

Pakistan has denounced the killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike, saying it jeopardizes pending peace talks with the militant group.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said Saturday the drone strike has undercut government efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the decade-long Taliban insurgency.

Khan said a government delegation was on its way to speak with Mehsud Friday when drone missiles struck his compound in North Waziristan.

Pakistani and U.S. officials have confirmed Mehsud was killed in the attack.

Pakistani Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said Saturday he hoped Mehsud's death would not stop peace efforts.

In a statement Saturday, the Afghan government condemned the killing of Mehsud and urged Pakistan to stop U.S. drone strikes, which are aimed at suspected al-Qaida and Taliban operatives.



It is unclear if the Pakistani Taliban has chosen a new leader. Some reports say the group's second in command, Khan Said, also known as Sajna, was promoted on Saturday. Others quote Taliban spokesmen saying a new leader will be chosen within a few days.

The 34-year-old Mehsud took over the Pakistani Taliban in 2009 when its previous head was killed, also by a drone strike.

The U.S. had a $5 million bounty on Mehsud. He was accused of involvement in a deadly suicide attack on a CIA compound in Afghanistan in 2009 and a failed bombing of New York's Times Square in 2010.

Mehsud's cousin, uncle and a bodyguard were also reportedly killed in the CIA attack on the compound, which sources confirmed to VOA was used by the Taliban leader.

Pakistani leaders say they strongly oppose U.S. drone strikes. But some critics believe the operations are part of a secret agreement under which Pakistan tacitly approves the U.S. strikes.

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