Pakistan's interior minister says he believes al-Qaida is trying to install a "chief terrorist" as the head of the country's Taliban, following last week's apparent killing of the group's leader.
During an interview with VOA Urdu service, Rehman Malik says there is credible intelligence confirming that Baitullah Mehsud was killed during a U.S. drone attack in South Waziristan Wednesday. Agents are working to get forensic proof.
Malik also said the Taliban leadership is now in disarray and militants are fleeing the area as factions fight for control of the Pakistani Taliban network.
But Monday, Hakimullah Mehsud, one of the militants believed to be a potential successor, called media outlets, saying his leader is alive. He also wanted to dispel reports of a deadly shooting over succession.
Pakistani officials said reports suggested a fight erupted during a meeting (shura) Saturday between Mehsud and his fellow Taliban commander, Wali-ur-Rehman, and that one of them died. Rehman also has denied the report to Reuters.
On Sunday, U.S. national Security Adviser Jim Jones said there was a 90-percent chance that Baitullah Mehsud was killed.
The leader of the Tereek-e-Taliban movement has taken responsibility for a wave of deadly attacks across Pakistan. The U.S. government has put a $5 million bounty on his head, and Pakistan accuses him of orchestrating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.