Taliban chief in Pakistan may be among four killed by U.S. drone
A US drone strike targeting a vehicle used by Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud killed at least four people Friday in a militant compound in a tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said.
Pakistani security officials have not confirmed whether Mehsud was killed in the strike, which took place five kilometres (three miles) north of Miranshah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold for Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.
“A US drone fired two missiles targeting a vehicle at the main gate of the compound, killing four militants,” a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“It was a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) compound which was in use of top TTP commander” Mehsud, he added.
The strike came a day after three insurgents were killed in another drone strike that also targeted a rebel compound near Miranshah.
Another security official also confirmed the attack and casualties but the identities of those killed in the strike were not immediately known.
North Waziristan is one of seven semi-autonomous tribal regions in Pakistan.
Washington considers these areas a major hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
The incident comes a week after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged US President Barack Obama to stop drone strikes during a meeting in Washington.
The Pakistani defence ministry Wednesday said 317 US drone strikes in the country’s tribal areas had killed 67 civilians and 2,160 militants in Pakistan since 2008. Other organisations have given much higher estimates for the civilian casualties of drone strikes in the region.
The attacks are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington sees them as a vital tool in the fight against militants in the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government has repeatedly protested against drone strikes as a violation of its sovereignty.
But privately officials have been reported as saying the attacks can be useful in removing militants from the country.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]