Tehreek-e-Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, who masterminded the Peshawar school massacre, was believed to be killed after being seriously hit in air strikes in Pakistan's restive Khyber tribal area over the weekend.
Fazlullah, 40, who took over in 2013 when his predecessor Hakimullah Mehsud was killed, was seriously injured in the air strikes, sources told PTI.
Pakistan Army said at least 80 militants were killed and over 100 injured in ground and aerial offensive in Khyber tribal district over the weekend. Security sources said Fazlullah might have been killed in the fierce fighting in which seven soldiers were also killed.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Mehtab Khan Abbasi today said that the death of Fazlullah would be confirmed in coming days.
However, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khorasani rejected the news about death of the Taliban chief. "The reports concerning death of our chief are totally baseless," he said in a statement.
With these conflicting reports, it is difficult to say with certainty about the fate of fugitive Taliban chief who has dodged death since 2009 when he broke through a cordon of security forces in Swat and fled to Afghanistan. There have been reports of his death couple of times in the past but all such reports proved false.
Fazlullah nicknamed the "Radio Mullah" is said to be in contact with the Peshawar school attackers during the assault that left 154 people dead, mostly school children on December 16, 2014.
A joint operation to hunt down Fazlullah was conducted after Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif rushed to Afghanistan after the Peshawar massacre, demanding that the Afghan government take action against TTP's most-feared leader hiding there.
Fazlullah was the leader of the Taliban in Swat Valley and became the Taliban chief in November 2013 after the killing of Hakimullah in a US drone attack. Hakimullah's predecessor Baitullah Mehsud was also killed in a US drone attack in August 2009.