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“Pakistan is both playing with the radicals and trying to have a relationship with the Americans,” he said. “It is too late to ask the Pakistani army to reverse its policy of supporting the Taliban.”

On Feb. 10, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed reports of Mehsud’s death, which the Taliban promptly dismissed as a lie and then insisted Mehsud was alive.

The CIA also never confirmed Mehsud’s death.

However, a U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mehsud had not been seen or heard from since the drone strike.

“If Hakimullah really is alive, let him prove it. He never had a problem going before the cameras. But, for the past few months, he’s nowhere to be seen,” the official said. “His group isn’t one that traditionally led from the cave in silence.”

The Taliban said it would not offer any evidence, such as a video recording, because doing so could help security forces hunt down Mehsud, the AP reported.

A Pakistani Embassy spokesman in Washington said he could not confirm reports that Mehsud was alive.

“His absence is the Taliban’s problem, not ours. It’s already been shown that he can be hit,” the U.S. counterterrorism official said. “As Baitullah Mehsud learned to his peril, if you’re a terrorist figure in that part of the world, you have to be smart … and lucky,” the official added, referring to the former leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was killed in a U.S. strike in August.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said he had seen “no evidence” that Mehsud “is operational today or is executing or exerting authority over the Pakistan Taliban, as he once did.”

“So I don’t know if that reflects him being alive or dead, but he clearly is not running the Pakistani Taliban anymore,” Mr. Morrell told reporters.

The Taliban waited three weeks to confirm Baitullah Mehsud’s death. That incident spawned reports that two likely successors - Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman - had engaged in a gunfight in which one or both militants had been killed.

That report also proved to be inaccurate, and Hakimullah Mehsud later met with reporters to prove that he was in fact alive.

In January, he appeared in a video with a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan in December.

Ayesha Siddiqa, a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said he was not surprised that Mehsud could have survived the drone attack.

“It doesn’t take rocket science to discover that if, as it was indicated in the news, he had died in Multan then somebody ought to have seen his dead body. None of that happened,” Ms. Siddiqa said.

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