He’s believed to have been behind a deadly suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan and a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square, as well as assaults in Pakistan that killed thousands of civilians and members of security forces.
Mehsud was on the U.S. most-wanted terrorist lists with a $5 million bounty.
He also increased coordination with al-Qaida and Pakistani militants, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and funded the group’s many attacks by raising money through extortion, kidnapping and bank robbery.
“This is a serious blow to the Pakistani Taliban which may spark internal fractures in the movement,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and adviser to the Obama administration who helped craft the agency’s drone campaign.
“Since the Taliban are a key al-Qaida ally it will be a setback for them as well,” said Riedel, who now runs the Washington-based Brookings Institution’s intelligence project.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was elected in part on promises to bring peace to the country through negotiations instead of more military operations. On Thursday, Sharif had said talks with the militants were underway.
A senior Pakistani security official said a delegation was to travel Saturday to North Waziristan to convey a message from the government about starting the talks. But the official said the delegation would now not be going.
He said the delegation contained no one serving in the government, but refused to share details about its membership.
Mehsud’s death will complicate efforts by the government to negotiate a peace deal. After a drone strike killed the group’s No. 2 in May, the Tehreek-e-Taliban fiercely rejected any idea of peace talks and accused the government of cooperating with the U.S.
Pakistani officials regularly criticize the attacks as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, but the government is known to have supported some strikes in the past.
In recent weeks, the TTP appeared to soften its position against talks but had still made multiple demands for preconditions to any negotiating, including the end of drone strikes in the tribal areas.
Popular politician Imran Khan has been one of the most vocal critics of the strikes. His party runs the government in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and has threatened to block trucks carrying supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan unless the attacks stop.
Speaking to reporters Saturday, Khan said the U.S. had sabotaged the efforts to bring peace to Pakistan, and his party would push the provincial assembly to adopt a resolution to block the NATO supplies.