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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Taleban commander 'kills himself'
 Abdullah Mehsud
Abdullah Mehsud was detained, then freed, by US forces
An Islamic militant leader, wanted for kidnapping two Chinese engineers in Pakistan in 2004, has blown himself up to avoid arrest, Pakistani police say.

Abdullah Mehsud, who spent 25 months in custody at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, died in south-western Balochistan province, a police spokesman said.

Mehsud, whose real name was Noor Alam, was a Pashtun, the same ethnic group as the Taleban of Afghanistan.

He fought for the Taleban against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

Arrests

Pakistan interior ministry spokesman Javed Cheema told the AFP news agency that Mehsud blew himself up with a hand grenade after soldiers raided a hideout in the Zhob district of Balochistan.

It appears he did not want to be captured alive
Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema

"Abdullah Mehsud blew himself up with a grenade and died when security forces raided his hideout. Three of his accomplices were arrested," he said.

Zhob is in a strongly Pashtun border area of Balochistan, not far from the troubled tribal area of South Waziristan.

Mehsud's death has not been independently confirmed. Reports say his brother was among those detained.

A local police official, Atta Mohammed, told the Associated Press news agency that no military personnel were wounded by the explosion in which Mehsud died.

Map

The BBC's Dan Isaacs in Islamabad says Mehsud was an important figure, not because he had been particularly active in recent months but because he had a fearsome reputation among pro-Taleban militants.

He lost a leg in a landmine explosion as the Taleban fought to take over the Afghan capital Kabul in 1996, and was eventually captured and handed over to the Americans in 2001.

Released from Guantanamo in 2004, he quickly resumed his militant role and was involved in the kidnap of two Chinese workers, one of whom died during a rescue bid by Pakistani forces in South Waziristan later that year.

Analysts say the kidnapping was an attempt to secure the release of al-Qaeda militants held during Pakistani army operations in South Waziristan.

US pressure

Our correspondent says the timing of the raid in which Mehsud died is significant, as Pakistan's government has been coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate successes in its battle against the militants.

There have been angry exchanges at the highest level between the US and Pakistan over the past few days.

On Tuesday, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Kurshid Kasuri told the BBC that people in his country would not tolerate a US military strike on their soil.

Our correspondent says Pakistan will no doubt point to the operation against Mehsud, as well as the killing of at least 35 militants by government forces on Monday, as evidence that it can handle its own security issues without outside intervention.

Meanwhile, the beheaded bodies of two soldiers abducted by militants have been found in Bajaur agency, officials say.


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