Suspected US unmanned aircraft fired six missiles at a vehicle in Pakistan’s rugged tribal region yesterday, killing five militants, including a close ally to one of the area’s top commanders, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The attack in the South Waziristan tribal area killed Khan Mohammed, also known as Sathai, deputy leader of a group of militants led by Maulvi Nazir and also the commander’s cousin, the officials said.
The strike also killed Nazir’s younger brother, Hazrat Omar, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Nazir is one of the most powerful militant commanders in the tribal region and is accused of working with the Taliban and al-Qaeda to stage attacks against foreign troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
He is believed to have close relations with Pakistani intelligence and agreed to stay neutral when the military invaded South Waziristan in 2009 to fight the Pakistani Taliban, who have focused their attacks against the Pakistani state.
The US has accused Pakistan of failing to crack down on militants staging attacks in Afghanistan and has stepped up drone attacks in the tribal region to combat them.
The militants killed in yesterday’s drone strike were riding in a double-cabin pickup truck from Tora Gola village to the nearby area of Azam Warsak when they were hit, the intelligence officials said.
Three other people were injured in the attack, they said.
The US refuses to acknowledge the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan publicly, but officials have said privately that the strikes have killed many senior al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders.
Pakistani officials regularly criticize the attacks in public as violations of the country’s sovereignty, but the government has actually supported them in private and allowed the drones to take off from bases within Pakistan.
That cooperation has become strained this year as the relationship between the US and Pakistan has deteriorated, especially following the arrest of a CIA contractor in January and the covert US raid that killed al--Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May.
Before yesterday’s strike, a Pakistani army convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in the Shakai area of South Waziristan. That explosion killed two soldiers and wounded three others, intelligence officials said.
Also yesterday, a bomb exploded in the main food market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, wounding at least 11 people.
Police officer Shafqat Malik said three of the victims were in serious condition.
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