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Ex-Guantanamo inmate kills self to avoid arrest

July 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

QUETTA, PAKISTAN — A Taliban militant who became one of Pakistan's most wanted rebel leaders after his release from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, killed himself with a hand grenade Tuesday to avoid capture, officials said.

The death of Abdullah Mehsud, who lost a leg years ago fighting for the Taliban, was a boost for Pakistani authorities under pressure from the U.S. to crack down on Taliban and Al Qaeda militants fighting on both sides of the Afghan border.

Mehsud, who was in his early 30s, was wanted in "many terrorist cases," Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said. "He was a supporter of the Al Qaeda terror network and an active Taliban commander in Pakistan."

A Pakistani intelligence official said Mehsud was intercepted on his way back from Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Police surrounded Mehsud and three other men before dawn in the home of an Islamist politician in Zhob, a town 160 miles from the southwestern city of Quetta, officials said.

Cheema said security forces had trailed Mehsud for three days before moving in.

Mehsud was held in the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay after he was captured by U.S.-allied Afghan forces in northern Afghanistan in December 2001. It remains unclear why he was released in March 2004.

He quickly took up arms, leading militants in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold of militants that is considered a possible hide-out for Al Qaeda's top leaders.

The intelligence official said there was no evidence Mehsud organized violence that has flared in Pakistan since a deadly military raid this month on a radical mosque in Islamabad, the capital.

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