A Hellfire missile, fired from a CIA-operated drone an hour past midnight Wednesday, Pakistan time, tore Baitullah Mehsud's body into two pieces. He was said to be on a glucose drip -- dispensed by a local paramedic named Saeedullah -- on the rooftop of his in-laws' house in Zangara, South Waziristan, when hell rained down and took several lives, including that of Mehsud and his second wife.
If this eyewitness account -- narrated on the phone by an intelligence operative to journalists based in Peshawar, the provincial capital, were true, then the icon of al Qaeda militants -- ready to kill and die for their cause -- is gone. Back in its December 2007 annual issue, the Time magazine had listed Baitullah Mehsud among "its 100 most influential individuals" around the globe. By then, Mehsud had already declared jihad on the West.
"Our main aim is to finish Britain and the United States and to crush the pride of the non-Muslims. We pray to God to give us the ability to destroy the White House, New York, and London. Very soon, we will be witnessing jihad's miracles," the diminutive militant told the Doha-based Al Jazeera satellite channel in January 2008.
The radical maverick had carried a $5 million bounty after the U.S. State Department described him as a clear threat to American interests in the region. He stunned many in and outside the country on March 31, 2009, when he owned up to a commando raid and the ensuing bloody siege of a police training academy a day earlier on the outskirts of the eastern city of Lahore. The roughly eight-hour long operation resulted in the deaths of eight policemen and four attackers. Four were arrested.
"We did it as a retaliation for U.S. missile strikes off drones inside the Pakistani territory," said Mehsud, the first such admission he had made personally.