Pakistan's interior minister and a senior intelligence official say the country's Taliban chief has died.
In messages to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the officials did not provide details of how or when Hakimullah Mehsud died. But it was the first time Pakistani authorities have categorically said the militant chief is dead.
The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the record.
Rumors of Mehsud's death have swirled for weeks, after a spate of U.S. missiles hit his stronghold in Pakistan's northwest in mid-January. Mehsud was said to have died of wounds suffered in one of the strikes.
The Taliban have denied his death, but have failed to prove that he is alive.
A U.S. counterterrorism official told CBS News correspondent Bob Orr late Tuesday that "the onus is really on the Pakistani Taliban" to prove he's not dead.
"Hakimullah certainly hasn't shied away from the terrorist limelight before," the official said, referring to Mehsud's previous appearances in Taliban propaganda videos. "So, if he's alive, why is he doing so now when there's so much speculation about his demise?"
The U.S. has yet to officially confirm the death of Mehsud, who commands an al Qaeda-allied movement that is blamed for scores of suicide bombings and is suspected in ain Afghanistan late last year.
His death would represent a major victory for Pakistan's government and its allies in the West over the Islamic militant groups which operate along the border with Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, a U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security matters, told the AP that American officials hadthat Mehsud was likely dead based on collective information of U.S. intelligence agencies.