Dead, Baitullah Mehsud on the 5th of August 2009, he was a leading militant in Waziristan, Pakistan, and the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Born in the early 1970s in Landi Dhok village in the Bannu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, which lies some distance from the Mehsud tribe’s base in the South Waziristan Agency.
An ethnic Pashtun, he hailed from the Broomi Khel side of the Shabi Khel sub-clan of the Mehsud tribe, and was one of five brothers.
He avoided media attention and refused to be photographed in adherence with his religious beliefs. Mehsud entered into a ceasefire with Pakistani authorities on the 8th of February 2005.
During the meeting at Sara rogha, the Pakistani military agreed to withdraw its troops from areas under Baitullah’s control.
The removal did not include the paramilitary Frontier Corps, consisting mostly of fellow Pashtuns.
In exchange, Baitullah’s followers would not attack government officials, impede development projects or allow foreign militants to operate within their territory. Mehsud was offered US$20 million for his cooperation in the ceasefire.
He declined the money and told Pakistani authorities that they should use the pay-out to “compensate families who had suffered during the military operation”.
In February 2008, Mehsud announced that he had agreed to another ceasefire with the government of Pakistan although the Pakistani military claimed that operations against Mehsud’s forces continued.
The New York Times, however, reported that anonymous high-level officials in the Pakistani government confirmed the deal. In April Baitullah circulated a pamphlet that ordered his followers not to undertake any attacks inside Pakistan due to ongoing peace talks.
Mehsud spent the late 1980s fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani intelligence official, although other reports claim he didn’t begin fighting in Afghanistan until 1993.
During the 1990s he fought with Taliban militias as they pushed into Kabul. When the US forced al Qaeda out of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks, he helped them find sanctuary in Pakistan.
He rose to prominence as a supporter of the one-legged militant Abdullah Mehsud, who was incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay following the September 11 attacks.
In 2007, Mehsud’s men captured more than 200 Pakistani soldiers in an ambush and held them hostage for over a month, only releasing them in exchange for the government releasing 25 Taliban fighters.
That year he also declared himself to be at the head of an alliance made up of several factions under the umbrella of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – the Pakistan Taliban.
His forces grew to an estimated 12,000 Pakistani fighters and 4,000 foreigners – some put his forces at 20,000 men. The ISI, Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency, referred to him as the country’s public enemy number one.
A Time magazine profile published in April 2009 said he had been described as ‘baby-faced and jocular in person’.
He travelled in armed convoys and moved from safe house to safe house, the profile added. Others described him as ‘reclusive like Taliban leader Mullah Omar and popular like al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden’.