Thu, Aug 06, 2009 - Page 6 News List

US drone hits home of Taliban chief’s relatives

BOUNTY: Officials said five people, including women and children, were injured in the overnight strike on the house of the father-in-law of Baitullah Mehsud

AFP , PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

A US drone attack destroyed a house belonging to the father-in-law of Pakistan’s wanted Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud and killed two militants yesterday, security officials said.

Suspected US attacks and Pakistani air strikes have increasingly pounded strongholds of Mehsud, who Washington has described as a key al-Qaeda facilitator, slapping a US$5 million price on his head.

The building targeted yesterday belonged to Maulana Ikram-ud-Din, one of Mehsud’s fathers-in-law, in Laddah village in South Waziristan — in Pakistan’s tribal badlands on the Afghan border, Pakistani officials said.

Relatives said Mehsud’s wife, the daughter of Ikram-ud-Din, was killed and that four children in the house were wounded, but there was no official confirmation that the woman had died.

“The missile strike took place at around 1:30am, two militants were killed,” one security official said.

“The missile was fired by a US drone,” the official said.

A second Pakistani security official also confirmed it was the house of Ikram-ud-Din, a pro-­Taliban cleric but not a commander.

“It wasn’t clear whether he [Ikram-ud-Din] was in the house at the time of the attack,” he said, putting the death toll at two militants.

Local officials said five people, including women and children, were injured in the overnight strike.

Mehsud took Ikram-ud-Din’s daughter as his second wife late last year. Under Islam, a man is entitled to four wives.

The house was destroyed in the attack. Local residents said Mehsud’s men cordoned off the site and were sifting through the rubble.

Washington has put Pakistan at the heart of the fight against al-Qaeda and has ordered an extra 21,000 troops in Afghanistan in a bid to stabilize the neighboring country for elections as part of a sweeping new war plan.

The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the CIA operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy unmanned aircraft in the region.

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