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Taliban leader's death brings little joy in Pakistan

| Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 7:24 p.m.

ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani Taliban leader killed in a recent U.S. drone strike was behind hotel bombings, assaults on political rallies, beheadings of police officers and suicide attacks on soldiers. But his death elicited little joy in the country where he wreaked most of his havoc and instead stirred widespread anger and suspicion.

At the time of the strike targeting Hakimullah Mehsud on Friday, the Pakistani government was engaged in efforts to negotiate a peace deal with militants. Frustrated by years of military campaigns that have failed to end the bloodshed, many Pakistanis had high hopes for this latest peace effort, and they blame the United States for fouling it up.

Mehsud “should have been given the chance to negotiate, and now the consequences have to be borne by Pakistan, not the U.S.,” said Syed Ahmed, a small business owner in the southern port city of Karachi.

Contributing to the anger are fears of a bloody backlash, plus a web of complex conspiracy theories, including the idea that militants such as Mehsud are American or Indian pawns intent on weakening Pakistan.

For years, Pakistan has been fighting militants in the tribal areas that border neighboring Afghanistan, with thousands of civilians and security forces dying in bombings and shootings at the hands of militants.

Mehsud, who had a reputation as an especially ruthless warrior, was the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, as it calls itself. The TTP is an umbrella group encompassing militant organizations across the tribal areas. It has called for the overthrow of the Pakistani government, the implementation of hard-line Islamic law and an end to cooperation with the Americans in Afghanistan.

The United States and Pakistan are wary allies in the war on terrorism.

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