GHALANAI, Aug 18 Senior Taliban leader and its top spokesman Maulvi Umar, who was captured on Monday night, confirmed the death of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud in a recent US missile strike, a security official said on Tuesday.
Maulvi Umar, a close aide to Baitullah, was apprehended by a tribal lashkar in Baizai tehsil of the Mohmand tribal region and handed over to the Frontier Corps in Ghalanai at about 1pm on Tuesday.
The official told Dawn that Maulvi Umar told interrogators that Baitullah had been killed in the Aug 5 missile attack in South Waziristan.
“Our first question to him was about Baitullah and he acknowledged that he was dead,” the official said.
“Umar was unnerved in the beginning but later broke down and started singing. He told us that Baitullah was dead and that there were problems in the TTP over succession.”
The TTP spokesman said he wanted to go to Orakzai agency for consultation on Baitullah's successor, but decided to return to his native Bajaur tribal region because of the fighting between two Taliban factions there.
Umar, who was captured along with his two bodyguards, was later brought to Peshawar from Ghalanai in a helicopter. The guards were identified as Waheed Gul and Haneefullah.
“Omar was badly bruised and could not even stand up,” a senior military official said. The TTP spokesman, he said, had apparently been badly mauled by the lashkar. “He is being treated for wounds. We will interrogate him when he recovers,” the official said.
Maulvi Umar's real name is Syed Mohammad, son of Alaf Khan. He is a resident of Badan in tehsil Mamond, Bajaur.
Our Correspondent in Bajaur adds Qari Sifat, of Tehrik-i-Taliban Bajaur, confirmed the capture of Maulvi Umar, along with his two guards. He told Dawn on phone that the TTP spokesman was going to Bajaur from Orakzai via Mohmand. He said Umar always used circuitous routes during his movement in the tribal belt.
Umar was made TTP's central spokesman in 2007 when 13 militant groups joined hands and declared Baitullah Mehsud as their leader.
He worked as a teacher in a seminary. He joined the TNSM of Maulana Sufi Mohammad in 1994 and served as its senior vice chief.
He also ran a small perfume shop in Bajaur's Inayat Kalley Bazaar from 1995 to 2006. Omar, along with TTP deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, had survived a missile attack on a seminary in Damadola in 2006.
US and Pakistani officials have been saying they are certain that Baitullah had been killed in the Aug 5 strike, but at least three Taliban operatives had called the media following the attack to say he was still alive.