Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Jan 14, 2010
Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was in the area of northwest Pakistan where a US drone strike killed 10 people Thursday but left before the missiles hit, a militant spokesman said.
Missiles fired by unmanned US aircraft hit a militant training camp early Thursday in a remote area on the border between North and South Waziristan, strongholds of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group, officials said.
"Hakimullah Mehsud was present at the same place in Shaktoi where the drone attack took place," TTP spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP by telephone.
"But he had left the place already when the drone attack took place. He is alive and completely safe."
His comments came after local television stations carried unconfirmed reports that Mehsud may have been killed in the strike, the seventh to hit Pakistan's lawless northwest tribal belt bordering Afghanistan this month.
Tariq did not say when Mehsud left the area, which Pakistan security forces described as "very remote".
Hakimullah Mehsud assumed leadership of the group blamed for thousands of deaths in Pakistan in late August, after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike on August 5.
The TTP denied Baitullah Mehsud's death for weeks, apparently amid fierce infighting over his succession.
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