Not 100 per cent sure about Mehsud's death, says US

"We have, obviously, seen reports, even by members of the Taliban, that Baitullah Mehsud is dead. We can't with 100 per cent certainty verify that," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

"There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead," he said, adding "if the reports of Mehsud's death are correct, there is no doubt that the Pakistani people are safer as a result of it".

Citing intelligence inputs, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi earlier in the day said the Tehrik-e-Taliban chief has been "taken out". "Authorities are going to the site of the missile strike to verify the Taliban leader's death," he said.

Describing Mehsud as a "murderous thug", Gibbs said Mehsud is somebody who helped plan and execute the death of scores of individuals, innocent civilians-- men, women and children-- through anything ranging from deadly suicide attacks to planning the assassination of former Pak Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

"So his demise is a good thing for the Pakistani people," he said.

Gibbs pointed out that this demonstrates the amount of cooperation between the US and Pakistan in stamping out the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations that would seek to destabilise the area and do harm to scores of innocent civilians.

When asked, why he is not 100 per cent certain, Gibbs said: "It may be many weeks before you could determine something like that, based on what's going on in that region, based on the remoteness of that region."

He added "We are seeing a high level of sustained cooperation, which is certainly a good thing. We think it's a good thing for the Pakistani people, and it's obviously a good thing for the region."

State Department spokesman Robert Wood also did not confirm Mehsud's death. "It is a long struggle and the US will continue with its fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders in the region," he said, adding "we have seen reports, but we are not able to confirm anything at this point".

"Mehsud has been responsible for a number of atrocious terrorist attacks against people from around the world. We will continue to work with other countries around the world to fight the scourge of terrorism," Wood said.

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