Two US drone strikes in the Pakistan tribal regions bordering Afghanistan have killed at least nine people, including a senior tribal leader who was known to have ties to the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani intelligence officials have said.
Six people, including Taliban-linked commander Mullah Nazir, who also had a truce with Pakistan’s military, were killed in the strike in South Waziristan and three others were killed in the second strike in the North, officials said on Thursday.
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According to the officials, the US drone fired two missiles at Nazir’s home in the Sar Kanda area of Birmil in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal district of South Waziristan.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
“The attack by a US drone late last night targeted a house in the An-goor Adda area in South Waziristan on the Afghan border,” Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported.
“Mullah Nazir was among those killed. The strike happened at a time when the US wants to talk with the Taliban… this is a major setback.”
Nazir reached a peace deal with Islamabad in 2007 and had testy relations with the Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting a domestic insurgency.
His death may have significance on US-led efforts to hold at bay an 11-year insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan, where he opposed the presence of US and NATO troops since foreign troops brought down the Taliban regime in 2001.
Nazir was also understood to be close to the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban blamed for some of the most high-profile attacks in Afghanistan and the capital Kabul in recent years.
Two of his influential deputies, Atta Ullah and Rafey Khan, were among those killed, the official added, and Nazir’s fighters have been targeted by US drone strikes in the past.
Another US drone fired two missiles at a vehicle carrying fighters in northwest Pakistan, killing at least three people near the Afghan border, local security officials said.
The missiles struck the vehicle in Mubarak Shahi village, 20km east of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district, a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked fighters.
“There has been no confirmation of the exact target in the northern Waziristan strike… but that region has received the highest intensity of strikes,” Hyder reported.
Another security official in the northwestern city of Peshawar confirmed the attack and casualties.
Both officials said the identity of those killed was not yet known.
The covert US drone strikes are publicly criticised by the Pakistani government as a violation of sovereignty but American officials believe they are a vital weapon in the war against insurgency in the country.
In September, a report commissioned by legal lobby group, Reprieve, estimated that between 474 and 881 civilians were among 2,562 to 3,325 people killed by drones in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.