U.S. drone kills Pakistan Taliban Number two: security officials

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Wed May 29, 2013 6:50am EDT

Deputy Pakistani Taliban leader Wali-ur-Rehman (C) is flanked by militants as he speaks to a group of reporters in Shawal town, which lies between North and South Waziristan region in the northwest bordering Afghanistan, in this July 28, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Saud Mehsud/File

Deputy Pakistani Taliban leader Wali-ur-Rehman (C) is flanked by militants as he speaks to a group of reporters in Shawal town, which lies between North and South Waziristan region in the northwest bordering Afghanistan, in this July 28, 2011 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Saud Mehsud/File

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A U.S. drone strike killed the number two of the Pakistani Taliban in the North Waziristan region on Wednesday, three security officials said, in what would be a major blow in the fight against militancy.

The drone strike killed seven people, Pakistani security officials said, including Taliban deputy commander Wali-ur-Rehman, in the first such attack since a May 11 general election in which the use of the unmanned aircraft was a major issue.

Wali-ur-Rehman had been poised to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud as leader of the Pakistani Taliban, a senior army official based in the South Waziristan region, had said in December.

"This is a huge blow to militants and a win in the fight against insurgents," one security official told Reuters, declining further comment.

The Pakistani Taliban are a separate entity allied to the Afghan Taliban. Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), they have launched devastating attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters the group did not have "confirmed reports" that Wali-ur-Rehman had been killed. He declined further comment.

Drone casualties are difficult to verify. Foreign journalists must have permission from the military to visit the Pashtun tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Taliban fighters also often seal off the sites of drone strikes immediately so Pakistani journalists cannot see the victims.

"That the Taliban are remaining silent and neither denying or confirming the news is itself peculiar," said Saleem Safi, a Pakistani expert on the Taliban. "But if this news is true, then the Pakistan army has the U.S. to thank."

The security officials and Pashtun tribesmen in the northwestern region said the drone fired two missiles that struck a mud-built house at Chashma village, 3 km (2 miles) east of Miranshah, the region's administrative town.

They said seven people were killed and four wounded.

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENOUNCES DRONES

"Tribesmen started rescue work an hour after the attack and recovered seven bodies," said resident Bashir Dawar. "The bodies were badly damaged and beyond recognition."

The Pakistan government had yet to confirm Wali-ur-Rehman's death.

A U.S. drone killed Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2009. There had been several reports that his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed the same way but they turned out to be untrue.

But the Foreign Ministry again denounced drones in general on Wednesday.

"The government has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law," it said.

U.S. President Barack Obama recently indicated he was scaling back the drone strike program, winning cautious approval from Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S. fight on militancy.

North Waziristan is on the Afghan border and has long been a stronghold of militants including Afghan Taliban and their al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban allies.

Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif said this month that drone strikes were a "challenge" to Pakistan's sovereignty.

"We will sit with our American friends and talk to them about this issue," he said.

Obama's announcement of scaling back drone strikes was widely welcomed by the people of North Waziristan, where drones armed with missiles have carried out the most strikes against militants over the past seven years, sometimes with heavy civilian casualties.

The strike also coincided with the first session of the newly elected provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the former Northwest Frontier Province.

Former cricketer Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party won most seats in the assembly and denounced the strike, saying Obama had gone back on his word.

(Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Syed Raza Hassan in Islamabad, Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Comments (53)
McBob08 wrote:
America continues its campaign of terrorism against Pakistan and the rest of the Middle East. Murder Drones are nothing but a sophisticated act of terror, and they kill far more innocent people, than the targets intended. And even the intended targets cannot be killed legally because they never faced official charges or a trial to determine if they’re guilty or not.

America needs to step back and totally suspend the drone program for anything except surveillance. The arming of drones must be made illegal, because it is allowing the government to do illegal killings overseas. These people are not in uniform, nor are they on a recognized battlefield, so, according to both American and International Laws, they make these assassinations nothing but Premeditated Murder. Obama needs to stand beside Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and answer for these war crimes he’s committed.

May 29, 2013 1:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ALALAYIIIAAAA wrote:
i am confused.on the one americans help al quaida deathsquads in syria and libya and on the other hand they kill them in pakistan and afganistan.al quaede must also feel totally confused.

May 29, 2013 2:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BidnisMan wrote:
Who would have thought that the biggest threat to a country with 10 000 nucluear warheads was some goatherds living in a mud hut. Go figure.

May 29, 2013 3:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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