Is Hakimullah Mehsud Alive? New Video Evidence

A new video offers potentially conclusive evidence that Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud survived a Predator attack in January. News reports and U.S. officials had argued that Mehsud, a notorious media hound who was silent for months afterward, had been killed by a CIA drone strike in Waziristan. But as Declassified reported previously, unnamed Pakistani officials began a whispering campaign last week claiming that Mehsud was only wounded in the attack and is now recovering.

In the new video, which was first brought to Declassified's attention by Evan Kohlmann, a private researcher who monitors extremist Islamic media, a speaker who appears to be Mehsud vows he will soon launch new terror attacks inside the United States. Kohlmann says the video bears the logo of Umar Studios, an "official" media outlet of the Pakistani Taliban, and says the video, which was issued on the Internet, "appears to be credible and legitimate." A U.S. counterterrorism official, requesting anonymity when discussing sensitive information, says American agencies are still examining the message and have not yet fully validated its authenticity.

As translated by KohImann, the speaker in the video uses flowery language to promise upcoming attacks: "In some days or a month's time, the Muslim umma [community] will see the fruits of most successful attacks of our fedayeen [volunteers] in [the] U.S.A. Inshallah, [God willing] in some days or a month, time will prove the success of our attacks, bringing joy and bless [blessings] to the hearts of the Muslim umma about being alive and healthy." (For what it's worth, a report in The Guardian quotes "several Pashto speakers" as saying the date given in the video is April 19.) The speaker goes on to claim that Taliban operatives have already infiltrated the United States: "The time is very near when our fedayeen will attack the American states in their major cities. And inshallah, we will succeed in our attacks. Our fedayeen have penetrated the terrorist America, we will give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America." The speaker also mentions the imprisonment of Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist who was convicted in New York earlier this year on federal charges of trying to kill Americans while detained in Afghanistan two years ago.

When Pakistani officials reportedly began saying last week that Mehsud was still alive, U.S. officials said they had always expressed some doubt that he had been killed. But they practically dared him to show himself. "If Hakimullah really is alive, let him prove it," one American official told Declassified. "He never had a problem going before the cameras. But for the past few months, he's nowhere to be seen." CIA officials especially have not forgotten Mehsud's costarring role in the "martyrdom video" of Humam Khalil Abu Mulala al-Balawi, the double agent who killed seven Americans and a Jordanian intelligence operative in a suicide bombing at a secret CIA base in Afghanistan last Dec. 30. If the new video turns out to be genuine, Mehsud will have called his enemies' bluff, once again making himself the center of international media attention. And he will also have demonstrated that it's smart to remain cautious about confirming a Predator target's death until there's irrefutable evidence of it.

Is Hakimullah Mehsud Alive? New Video Evidence | World