Officials in Pakistan say US drone strike claims life of high-level warlord
AFPMIRANSHAH, Pakistan--U.S. drone strikes killed a prominent warlord who sent insurgents to fight NATO troops in Afghanistan along with nine other militants in Pakistan's tribal belt, local officials said Thursday.
January 4, 2013, 12:14 am TWN
Mullah Nazir was the main militant commander in South Waziristan, part of the tribal zone where militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida have bases on the Afghan border. He is one of the highest-profile drone victims in recent years.
Pakistani officials said an unmanned U.S. aircraft fired two missiles at his vehicle in the Sar Kanda area of Birmil in South Waziristan, killing Nazir and five of his loyalists, including two senior deputies.
“Mullah Nazir and five associates died on the spot,” one of the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said the attack happened at 10:35 p.m. on Wednesday (1735 GMT) but that it took time to confirm the reports from such a far-flung and mountainous area.
Another Pakistani official said Nazir, believed to have been in his late 30s, was targeted as he prepared to swap vehicles after his pick-up developed a mechanical fault.
Two of his influential deputies, Atta Ullah and Rafey Khan, were among those killed, the official added.
Local residents told AFP that funeral prayers were said for Nazir and his associates around 10 kilometers (six miles) west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, and markets and shops closed.
In the neighboring district of North Waziristan, two more missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed four other militants on Thursday but their identities were not immediately known, other Pakistani security officials said.
Nazir's fighters have long been targeted by U.S. drone strikes.
He was understood to be close to the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban blamed for some of the most high-profile attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan in recent years.
But he reached a peace deal with U.S. ally Islamabad in 2007 and had testy relations with the Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting a domestic insurgency.
He was wounded in a suicide attack in South Waziristan on Nov. 29 and had survived previous attempts on his life.
Pakistani security officials were locked in talks to assess the impact of Nazir's death, which one official told AFP would benefit Pakistani Taliban who want to move into South Waziristan.